EDMONTON - With the downtown arena project having essentially gone off the rails in the past week, can this be anything but a good thing?
It was an announcement Thursday afternoon from the City of Edmonton. The release stated:
“Mayor Stephen Mandel and city manager Simon Farbrother will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Katz Group officials in New York next Tuesday and Wednesday on the proposed arena agreement. Meetings involving both groups have been organized at the invitation of Mr. Bettman.”
Two things to consider here.
1. Gary Bettman is employed by the NHL owners. Daryl Katz is one of his bosses.
2. Gary Bettman takes a special pride in the part he played to salvage the Oilers back in the days when Peter Pocklington tried to sell the team to Les Alexander of Houston, and the saving of the franchise by a 37-person ownership group.
If nothing else, the fact Mandel and Farbrother are headed to New York at least signifies that there is the recognition that this is either off the rails or about to go off the rails at the next turn.
It was just back in May, remember, when Bettman asked his media relations director to make a trip up to the press box in Rogers Arena and usher your correspondent to Daryl Katz’s box during the third period of a Stanley Cup playoff series.
Katz was on the phone with Mandel, receiving the news of the city council vote on the new downtown arena.
“It’s a very positive step for the franchise. I compliment the mayor and city council for working hard with Daryl Katz to get this done and congratulate Edmonton on this day,” said the commissioner.
“It’s a great day for Edmonton, a very significant day for the city. It’s a great day for the Edmonton Oilers,” said Katz when he got off the line with the mayor.
“It’s a new message to the world about Edmonton’s downtown. With the art gallery and now the arena district which will come into being, it will really make a statement.”
So how did Edmonton get to this day?
And how does what happens in Gary Bettmn’s office in New York get it back on track?
I dealt with it Thursday in a noon-hour live chat at edmontonsun.com.
It’s embarrassing in every direction.
The Katz Group only understands gun-to-the-head negotiations. They’ve almost played themselves out of an essentially done deal by Katz being a bully.
Northlands has a sense of entitlement that is insane.
The province quietly was prepared to move the last $100 million into place and now they’re in hiding.
Meanwhile, Calgary sits waiting for all the ugliness to end in Edmonton with a building which has to be built downtown — and soon, or we officially become DEADmonton worldwide. When it finally gets done, Calgary gets their money nice and quiet and builds their new building where the Big Four Building sits with access of their LRT right into the arena.
The bottom line is that Edmonton eventually gets things done. It’s just the angst this city puts the populace through in getting there. It would cost this city so much more than the money involved to scuttle this now.
From as far away as New York this has to seem so silly.
Edmonton just refurbished Commonwealth Stadium to the tune of $125 million, built an art gallery for $88 million and the province is building a provincial museum for $350 million, all without a peep. And over the mountains $563 million of public money was used without a lot of braying to put a retractable roof on B.C. Place and remodel the interior.
And here, a building with a downtown entertainment district that will change the image of a city, a building that will be used by Edmonton sports fans and concertgoers more than all the other venues, including the one in Vancouver, combined, is off the rails?
And our mayor, who clearly in the last week has had enough of Katz, Northlands and, I suspect, councillors like Tony Catarina, has to take a trip to New York.
Whatever it takes to get it back on the rails.