Thanks a 100 million

Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz has upped the ante in the arena debate. (Amber Bracken, Edmonton...

Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz has upped the ante in the arena debate. (Amber Bracken, Edmonton Sun)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 PM ET

If The Katz Letter is a reflection of a whole new strategy by Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, then Tuesday was a significant day in the history of this city.

If it was simply a pre-planned give-back of the $100 million he originally promised to go toward a new downtown arena when the Rexall Drug emperor was making his hostile takeover of the team from the Edmonton Investors Group and some late-date spin doctoring, then it means nothing.

What has to happen here is for Katz to depart from his aggressive gun-to-your-head history and take a long, hard look at how the Edmonton Eskimos ended up with more than $110 million of improvements in and around Commonwealth Stadium in a deal which was win-win for the community and the community-owned club.

It was done by all parties agreeing this would be great for Edmonton and then having everybody quietly sit down and figure out how to put it all together in terms of funding, community use, operations, etc.

There wasn’t a peep from the anti-everything taxpayer groups. It was all done so smoothly it was a work of art.

To this point, Katz’s heavy-handed, heavily bungled bit of business in trying to ram his vision on his terms down the city’s throat has been a public relations nightmare.

If The Katz Letter indicates a U-turn in the direction and philosophy of getting this done, then terrific.

But does it?

Printed on Katz Group letterhead and distributed to the media, the June 29 letter signed by Bob Black, not Katz himself, is addressed to the mayor and city councillors.

“We are pleased to have been invited to address council on July 21, 2010 with respect to the Edmonton Arena Project,” it begins.

“We are writing in advance of that meeting to provide some background on recent developments with respect to this project and to alert you to a formal announcement we will be making regarding facilities in the City of Hamilton.

“Hamilton city council today directed its city administration to finalize an agreement that would give Katz Group a licence to manage various city-owned facilities (including Victor K. Copps Coliseum) currently being operated by Hamilton Entertainment Convention Facilities (HECFI).

“This agreement is something we have been working on for well over a year and it represents a significant opportunity in our long-term strategy to build a national sports and entertainment business.”

Alerting the city about the Hamilton move now is horses-out-of-the-barn stuff.

But if in there somewhere is the implied admission that this is something they really should have done before the spit hit the fan on that front several days ago to put a veiled threat into play, then great.

The next paragraph discusses Katz’s promise to put $100 million into the arena itself.

“We remain firmly committed to working with the City of Edmonton to make the Edmonton Arena District a reality and to securing the long-term sustainability of the Oilers in Edmonton,” said the letter, which appears intended for the public’s eyes as much as for city council’s.

“In this regard we had constructive discussions with Mayor (Stephen) Mandel in Los Angeles during the recent NHL Draft weekend,” continued the letter.

“These discussions were the latest in an ongoing dialogue with the mayor and city staff dating back about two years.

“Our dialogue has included discussion of possible funding models during which we have proposed different funding alternatives. We are concerned that there may be some misconceptions as to these discussions and, without attempting to address funding in its entirety, we want to take this opportunity to clarify a few matters.

“Firstly we can tell you that the most recent model we have proposed contemplates that Daryl Katz will invest $100 million directly into the construction of a city-owned arena.”

That the $100 million is back in the arena is significant but hardly to be applauded as that’s what he promised in the first place.

The part about “city-owned” arena — now that’s interesting.

Does this mean the city could choose Northlands to run it? Does this mean that all of the profits would not go to Katz?

Big questions.

Here’s another one.

Will Katz be there to stand in front of city council himself on July 21 to answer them?

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos