EDMONTON - First of all, it’s about the missing $100 million.
Do you think Mayor Stephen Mandel and city council, as well as Daryl Katz and his team, would have done so much work to complete the framework for a deal that will change the face and image of the city, if they were worried about the missing $100 million?
Do you think the Edmonton Oilers owner would have invited me down to his box in Rogers Arena with 10 minutes to play in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final to talk about his dream coming true, if there wasn’t the belief that the $100 million would be there from the province?
This project isn’t just for Edmonton, it’s for Northern Alberta. I’m sure the mayor has assurances that if they finally managed to get the framework built, the rest of the money to top it off to a $450 million building would be forthcoming.
Don’t forget, the Calgary Flames are believed to be well down the road behind the scenes (things are done much more quietly and much less messily in Calgary) toward getting a new rink for Southern Alberta, and that sort of support would be looked for there.
There’s a long tradition of this sort of thing dating back to the Jubilee Auditoriums in both cities.
I know that Mayor Mandel thought everything else would fall into place but was worried that the deal buster would be Katz not signing off on $125 million of ticket tax money on “his” tickets.
But, finally, he did. And wasn’t that a wonderful bit of timing by city council — providing the long-promised $12 million of new green seats for Commonwealth Stadium, but with a ticket tax attached.
There’s also debate, and even some angst, about what happens to Edmonton Northlands now.
Katz made it clear when he made the public appearance in front of city council that there would be no compromise when it came to Northlands. They would have to be out of the arena rental business.
A non-competition clause is part of the framework of the deal. And it has to be.
“I think everybody understands that has to occur,” Coun. Bryan Anderson said. “The economy can not sustain two arenas competing for the same things. I think they’d both go broke.”
But if you go back to the downtown arena study group led by Lyle Best, an inspired thought came out of that group that Northlands could keep Rexall Place, just not with 16,837 seats in it.
This city desperately needs an 8,000 seat arena for events too big for the new downtown arena and to complement the agricultural fair board concept where it all began with the former Edmonton Exhibition Association — an outfit which essentially killed Klondike Days because the fabulous downtown action was cutting into the fairgrounds attendance.
The idea would be to remove the roof from Rexall Place, take out the upper deck, and put a new roof on the lower bowl.
Remember the city gets a month’s worth of booking time for things like the Canadian Finals Rodeo, the Brier, World Figure Skating Championships, etc. in the new downtown arena.
Katz’s Oil Kings would be better suited to an 8,000-seat Rexall.
And forget the idea that the City of Edmonton just did Northlands dirt.
Northlands IS the City of Edmonton.
Certainly there are challenges ahead to “keep them whole,” but this is also an opportunity to reinvent the fair board and get them back to running a much higher quality summer event than the sad show they have out there now.
I say again that Wednesday was a great day in the history of the City of Champions and the next thing that should happen here is for the Katz Group to reveal to the entire populace the plans that they’ve been showing around town to the movers and shakers.
It’s time to get Edmonton excited.
And somebody ought to make sure to record the names of the five councillors who voted against this because, five years from now, there isn’t going to be a person in this city who is going to think this isn’t the greatest thing to ever happen to Edmonton.