No teams at Rexall after 2014: NHL commissioner
A big name in the world of professional hockey argues Edmonton will lose the Oilers if a new facility isn't built in the next three years because Rexall Place is ‘antiquated' and doesn't meet NHL standards.
Gary Bettman made the comment at a press conference in Edmonton on Saturday.
"This building is obviously outdated, and for this city to continue to attract concerts, family shows conventions, having a new state-of-the-art arena is important," argued the NHL commissioner. "Equally as important is this team - the Edmonton Oilers has to have a new arena. There is not question about it - they are not going to stay in this building."
Bettman said he's been through one Save-the-Oilers campaign, and is worried another fight may be on the horizon.
"I really don't want to have to go through a second one," he said. "This team needs a new building, this city needs a new building… I find it difficult to believe people would let it get to that point."
The Katz Group, which is currently in negotiations with the city to build a new downtown arena district, released a statement reacting to Bettman's public opinion.
"We appreciate the Commissioner's comments and his support for the project," reads an excerpt written by Executive Vice President Bob Black.
"Time is the enemy and we need a deal with the City very soon in order to ensure we have a new building before our lease expires in 2014, to lock down pricing before the predicted escalation in labour and materials prices and to capitalise on the numerous expressions of interest we have received from prospective tenants and partners for the district."
The Katz Group originally hoped shovels would be in the ground by early 2011, but so far has only managed to push land rezoning efforts through.
At present, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers is committing $200 million to the project, and is hoping to secure another $125 million from the city as well as $100 million from other levels of government.
On March 2nd, city council is expected to update the public on negotiations over who would manage the arena and where revenue would be directed. Mayor Stephen Mandel believes it's possible to have a funding model in place by April.
Bettman hopes his comments will galvanize negotiations, helping public and private partners meet a tight deadline.
"You're going to need a new arena, it's that simple," he said. "It's not a threat by any means – it's a reality."
With Files from Kevin Armstrong