SUN Hockey Pool

Katz & Co. arena checklist shorter

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

So what does it mean?

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz has announced via press release that he's engaged AEG Development and AEG Facilities to advise on all aspects of the development of a new entertainment and sports district downtown.

The questions come quickly.

Is this a cart before the horse? What's to advise on until there's about $500 more million involved than the $100 million Katz has promised toward the project? Is this all on spec? Or has Katz written a big cheque? And where might this leave Edmonton Northlands? Does this mean the actual design of an arena and area is actually now underway?

The answer is that, yes, this is putting the cart before the horse. But it's more that Katz has rented the cart in anticipation of acquiring the horse.

It means that, yes, Katz has written a cheque on spec. But no, it's not a big, big cheque yet. Nobody involved seems to know where this might leave Northlands but this should make them nervous. And, no, the actual design of the arena and area is not yet underway. AEG is now on board to provide the ongoing project management and the advice in that direction.

The bottom line is that if you're going to go there, this is pretty much where you have to start.

This is another example that Katz is determined to go there and get started.

There's little question AEG is the world's leading sports and entertainment company. These guys have done this sort of thing 25 times.

There's not enough space on this page to list the credits which include a $2.5-billion project surrounding the Staples Center in Los Angeles or the development in London which includes a 20,000-seat arena and 650,000 sq.-ft. of leisure, retail, hospitality, exhibition and entertainment facilities.

"AEG is an ideal partner to help us make a new downtown entertainment and sports district a reality for Edmonton," said Katz in the release.

"They have had great success developing and operating world-class sports and entertainment-based urban revitalization projects. Their experience, relationships and end-to-end development capabilities will be of benefit to the project and the broader community."

The release stated that "AEG will work closely with Katz Group to further define the project's scope, programming and development team, and will provide ongoing project management and oversight. AEG's capabilities include all phases of the development process, including planning, feasibility analysis, entitlements, design, leasing, construction and facility operations."

The release also features quotes from the heads of the company which is a subsidiary of the Anschultz Company which owns the Los Angeles Kings and several other sports franchises and runs the largest tour of major entertainment acts primarily through the arenas it owns and/or operates.

"This new Edmonton project is destined to not only become one of the world's most unique sports-and-entertainment destinations but one of the premier projects to revitalize a capital market's downtown district," said Bob Newman, AEG Facilities.

"We are honoured to have the opportunity ... to create this groundbreaking development. On behalf of AEG, we appreciate your confidence in selecting our company and we won't let you down."

With Katz remaining a recluse, probably a good thing the way his hockey team has turned into the Toronto Maple Leafs, we are left to pose our questions to spokesman Pat LaForge.

"This should give people a lot of confidence it's going to happen," he said. "We think they liked the size and scope of this project. They haven't done anything in Canada yet. We think we saw a bit of a gleam in their eyes.

"At this stage we were looking mostly at project management and advice. They're the leader. They've done it all over the world."

Hiring an actual arena architect and an an arena builder are separate entities, according to LaForge.

Consider this another thing off the "to-do" list.

Buy the hockey team. Check.

Commit $100 million to the arena. Check.

Buy and secure options for the land. Check.

Hire a development and advice team. Check.

That's four big pieces in a very large puzzle.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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