The owner of the Edmonton Rush lacrosse team is urging the city to amend a bylaw that would allow the organization to retain the revenue from an admission surcharge.
Bruce Urban claims his team is getting unfair treatment because they are docked a surcharge per game ticket, while the Oilers and the Oil Kings get to keep their surcharge under a separate business decision made between the Oilers organization and the city.
“I want to make pro lacrosse viable in Edmonton. If we’re on a fair playing field as the Edmonton Oil Kings, this sport will flourish,” Urban said, estimating he has lost more than $100,000 per year in surcharge revenue.
“The Oilers should have nice breaks because of their economic impact, but not the Oil Kings. If they were faced with the same expenses we have, would they be around as long?”
Under the city’s admission surcharge bylaw, an admission fee is applied for each ticket for an event held at Rexall Place, with revenues going to Northlands, which owns and operates the building. However, a separate agreement allows the Oilers and Oil Kings to keep surcharges on any Oilers or Oil Kings games or events, said Richard Larson, director of leasing and property management with the city.
“The city had the right to collect and retain that money, but through a business decision, agreed to allow Northlands and the Oilers to keep it,” Larson said.
Coun. Kim Krushell doesn’t think renegotiating the admission surcharge deal with the Edmonton Rush is possible right now and would require the Herculean task of rounding up the Oilers group, the Rush, the city, and Northlands, at a time when arena debates are ongoing.
Letting the Rush keep their surcharge might also mean less revenue for Northlands to offset the operating costs associated with running Rexall Place, Krushell said. That money has to come from somewhere, she said, adding: “everyone will be looking at the city to cough up the cash, and that money comes from taxpayers.”
However, Krushell added she hopes to see lacrosse stay, and crosses her fingers that the Rush can find a way to survive.
“I’d want more Edmontonians to go out and see it because it’s fun family entertainment,” she said.
Urban said he has discussed his concerns with Mayor Stephen Mandel and with former city manager Al Maurer, but hasn’t heard anything since.
An assistant with the mayor’s office indicated Monday that Mandel would not comment.
In addition to $100,000 lost in admission surcharges, Urban said he has had to pay $7,500 rent to Northlands per game, and thousands more dollars to the Oilers organization for the use of their scoreclock, and to a separate company for the use of their production facilities room.
Northlands declined to divulge licensing agreeement details for both teams, citing privacy issues.
In total, Urban said he’s been set back about half a million dollars each year since the Rush came to Edmonton five years ago.
He said he hopes to work out an agreement with Northlands and with the Oilers for a “more equitable” agreement, but so far he said he’s gotten nowhere.
“I think it would be sad to treat us so differently and basically squeeze us out of the market,” Urban said. “I think that would be a very sad day.”