Mandel from optimistic to determined on arena

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, seen here in September discussing his frustration over the ongoing...

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, seen here in September discussing his frustration over the ongoing debate over the proposed downtown arena. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI Agency)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

EDMONTON - Mayor Stephen Mandel not only hopes to get the Edmonton downtown arena deal back on the rails but put it on a monorail here this week.

Mandel was optimistic when he boarded Air Canada Flight 1156 to New York Monday morning.

"I wouldn't be taking this trip if my expectations weren't optimistic," he said as he found his seat along with city manager Simon Farbrother and chief of staff Patricia Misutka.

By the time the mayor and the City of Edmonton team arrived at La Guardia in New York, Mandel had gone from optimistic to determined.

"Most people want to see this deal get done," he said of the $450-million downtown arena and entertainment district which would totally transform the city.

"Not all.

"Some don't.

"But I know without a doubt that if we get it done and look back five years from now and 10 years from now, nobody will be saying a negative word.

"And I know if we don't get it done, and five and 10 years from now we don't have a hockey team and we don't have any improvements to our downtown and we look back, there will be a lot of people wondering how we could have done that to our city.

"I think everybody involved, including Daryl Katz and Gary Bettman want the team to be successful and stay in Edmonton."

At about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon Mandel and his team will be joined by city lawyer Rob Seidel and will enter the offices of the National Hockey League on Avenue of the Americas, walking distance from Times Square, to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Wednesday they'll be joined by Daryl Katz and his team of Bob Black, the head of Katz Group Sports and Entertainment, Katz Group CEO Paul Marcaccio and lawyer John D. Karvellas.

When you think about it, maybe this meeting should have been held in Winnipeg. Considering the way the Jets expired in a city that refused to replace an old rink and have now returned to the city after a new one was finally built downtown, it would have been symbolic.

Besides, Bettman was there Sunday to celebrate the first game back for the Jets, a team he didn't doggedly fight to keep in Canada like he did to keep the Oilers in Edmonton.

"I commend Gary Bettman for inviting us to New York to try get some progress made. Bettman has been instrumental in NHL hockey staying in Edmonton. He's played a big part and I think it's important to him. I think he feels like he has a stake in this, too," said Mandel.

"I think his willingness to be the facilitator and deal with the miscommunication and misinformations can play a huge part here this week.

"There are a lot of gaps and we need to fill in the gaps. We're here to bridge the gaps between the various parties."

Mandel said he hopes everybody involved is going to be in Bettman's offices with that in mind.

"When things have gone on as long as they have with the same people involved in the negotiations, I think sometimes all the corners end up in the middle. It's frustrating for everybody.

"For the good of Edmonton and for the good of the hockey team, we have to be able to get there."

With that in mind, Mandel is starting to think Katz setting a Halloween deadline -the date his options on the land of the proposed site expire- is probably a good thing.

"Deadlines raise challenges. Deadlines provide impetus. I think they're important.

"This has gone on way too long," said the mayor, who shared a cab into the city with your correspondent.

The mayor isn't offering any hints about any of the things he plans to say in his meeting with Bettman Tuesday.

"It wouldn't be right to tell you before I tell him," he said.

And he's not suggesting he'll have much to say after he walks into the meetings either Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Even if I come out with what little hair I have left on my head on fire, I'd have a pretty upset city council if I informed everybody before I informed them."

Mandel didn't say if they planned to see a Broadway Show while they were here.

May I suggest that Tuesday night he, Katz and Bettman go together to the remake of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying down the block at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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