By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
The new arena saga in Edmonton, which is now in its fourth year, looked to be wrapping up last month with Oiler’s owner Daryl Katz set to sign off on a heavily subsidized deal. But then he made like a true NHL owner and asked for more money. The city said no, word leaked out, Katz got angry, and then he did the unthinkable: he paid Seattle a visit.
Cue machine gun to the foot.
While he’s only owned the team since 2008, you’d think Katz would have figured out what Oiler fans are like. They love their hockey. As soon as the news broke that Katz was considering a move to Seattle, or at least giving that impression, the city exploded in a massive wave of outrage. You don’t just move the Oilers. You don’t even consider it. You don’t even pretend to think about it. Using Seattle as a pawn in his negotiations was a classless move. Not only did he waste Seattle officials’ time, but he lost any public goodwill he had going for himself in Edmonton.
“There was probably a little too much [bare-knuckled Mark] Messier and not enough [graceful Wayne] Gretzky in the way that we conveyed things,” said Katz, “What we didn’t consider was how our supporters or our fans would feel and that was wrong and I apologize for it.”
The desperate attempt at some sentimental hockey humour was clearly not going to be enough to save his skin though. With this in mind, he also took out a full-page ad in the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun to further apologize for his exceptionally short-sighted thinking. While it will blow over eventually, for the time being, Katz is in the doghouse.
But surely Katz had reason to do what he did, right? Surely no one is that boneheaded? Let me answer for you: no to the former and yes to the latter.
The major cost with any new rink is always the rink itself. However, the city was going to cover the cost completely ($475 million). Katz wouldn’t need to pay a cent. All our loveable moneybag would have to dole out was $5.5 million a year for 30 years as lease payments, and an estimated $10 million a year in maintenance fees. For his paltry $15.5 million a year, Katz would receive all revenues from the arena for 11 months of the year, and the naming rights (valued between $1 and $3 million). Just to put how unbelievable a deal this is into perspective, the concession accounts for approximately $20 million a year by itself. So what did Katz say to this tremendous offer? He said “no” and asked for the city to cover $6 million of the yearly upkeep.
And now here we are, with the deal back in limbo again, and no party even close to being happy. Way to go, Katz. Way to go.