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Edmonton council votes to scrap negotiations on new arena after Oilers owner Daryl Katz fails to show

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel rubs his eyes as he and City Council receive an update on the...

Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel rubs his eyes as he and City Council receive an update on the downtown arena deal, Oct. 17, 2012. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency)

ANGELIQUE RODRIGUES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:34 AM ET

EDMONTON - The city’s mayor says he’s had enough of Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz using Edmontonians hockey love to leverage an arena deal.

“I think that’s the way it is,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel following an explosive debate on soured downtown arena negotiations. “He knows how valuable the Oilers are to the city of Edmonton.”

Mandel was following up on comments he made earlier during Wednesday council session — where council voted to stop the negotiations altogether — suggesting he doesn’t appreciate Oilers’ fans being exploited.

“There is a love for (hockey) here that does not exist in any other city, and it’s wrong to hold us up for ransom,” he said.

He issued a challenge to The Katz Group asking them to prove why they need more money, instead of just holding their hands out.

“Just saying you need the money isn’t enough of an answer,” he said. “Don’t say that you want us to pay for a bridge across the road that’s going to drive people to your development, and expect it to be a cost of the arena. It’s unfair.”

The city voted Wednesday to scrap negotiations on the current downtown arena deal and consider all options — which include building their own ice for the Oilers to play on.

After a lengthy and heated debate on some of the more contentious issues that have caused the deal between Katz and the city to break down, Coun. Dave Loken made a motion to put a stop to laboured negotiations.

He suggested council cease and desist all negotiations regarding the original framework approved by council and agreed upon by the Katz Group back in Oct. 2011 and work to find either a new deal, or other options.

The motion was three pronged with its first part dictating that all negotiations surrounding the initial framework agreement cease immediately.

While Coun. Amarjeet Sohi supported the motion, he hopes it doesn’t send a message to Edmontonians that council has given up on the arena deal.

“My concern is it will send the message that council is breaking off negotiations because that isn’t the case,” he said. “Negotiations were stopped by The Katz Group.”

Meanwhile, the motion managed to cause a lengthy argument over the meaning of the word “cease”, with Coun. Kim Krushell breaking out an online thesaurus to break it up.

Council deliberated on the wording of the motion with “cease”, “stop” and “suspend” at the forefront of the debate.

The motion was eventually voted through — after council decided on “ceasing negotiations” — around 5:20 p.m. with only Coun. Ed Gibbons voting against it.

Coun. Jane Batty then put up a motion for consideration that didn’t make it very far.

She suggested council move to eliminate the proposed $70 million Winter Garden and pedway from the arena design entirely, but other councillors protested.

Krushell stepped in to point out the motion might be premature and would only serve to eliminate any future possibilities of redesigning it in a more cost-effective way at some point.

The motion was eventually withdrawn, but Batty does have the option to bring it back to council.

Mandel says city administration will look into cost, revenue and all other aspects of a city-built arena, along with other options that could repair negotiations with Katz.

“We’ve got to do the deal, but I’m just not sure how anymore,” he said. “But we’ve got to find a way to do it.”

angelique.rodrigues@sunmedia.ca


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