SBD/Issue 240/Facilities & Venues

Oilers' LaForge Details Plans For New Downtown Edmonton Arena

LaForge Says Oilers Not Interested In Staying
At Rexall Place Even If Building Is Updated
Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge yesterday said that Oilers Owner Daryl Katz' Katz Group "has agreements to purchase two parcels of land for a possible downtown twin arena and entertainment complex," according to Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. LaForge said that the facility "could include a performing arts theatre, a casino, homes, offices, shops and space for educational development." LaForge: "It's a project now more than speculation, and it's underway." LaForge added that Katz Group "has reached deals for the Baccarat Casino site at 101st Street and 104th Avenue, and the block east of the Greyhound bus station at 103rd Street, but has options on other undisclosed land and hasn't decided where the arena should be built." LaForge: "We're totally focused on downtown." LaForge said that the Oilers "wouldn't be interested in staying at Rexall Place," where the team has a lease until '14, "even if the building was expanded and updated as suggested in a 2007 consultant's report." LaForge "provided few other details of what's being considered, saying the first move is to choose an architect and come up with a design," though he indicated that he "likes the idea of creating a practice space" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/1). LaForge said that the city of Edmonton has not given the Oilers a "financial commitment" for the development, and he "declined to say whether the Oilers would still build the arena if public cash -- estimated at [C$300-400M] -- doesn't come through." LaForge: "The idea is to get the design and the development put together, understand what is on the table, how much it costs and where it's going to be" (CP, 8/31).

MAKING PROGRESS: In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes yesterday's announcement "spoke volumes in terms of telling the town Katz is not only going to make it happen, he's well down the road to making it a happening -- further down the road than he'd really care to admit right now for all sorts of political and financial reasons." LaForge "essentially admitted Katz is well on his way to buying up or securing options on a giant footprint of land downtown, much larger than most people have in their heads to house a hockey arena" (EDMONTON SUN, 9/1). Also in Edmonton, Michael Platt notes the issue of "using public tax dollars to pay for a private sports complex is always controversial," but a committee launched by Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel last year "recommended public investment in the new rink" (EDMONTON SUN, 9/1).

CITY OFFICIALS IN THE DARK: In Edmonton, Frank Landry cites city councillors as saying that they have been "left out of the game when it comes to talk of a new downtown arena." Edmonton City Councillor Bryan Anderson said that neither Katz "nor anyone from the Oilers organization has spoken to councillors about their plans." City Councillor Ben Henderson "stressed it's early in the process, and the Oilers will eventually have to seek council's approval before moving ahead" (EDMONTON SUN, 9/1). An EDMONTON JOURNAL editorial states there is a "sense a matter of great importance to the whole Edmonton family is getting worked out behind closed living-room doors, and that doesn't seem like the ideal way to avoid future controversy." The arena project "will only be a success if everyone feels they have been consulted and had a hand in making the choice" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/1). Meanwhile, the EDMONTON SUN's Landry writes, "Where in the world is Daryl Katz?" Katz did not appear at yesterday's announcement, and LaForge said that Katz "likely won't make a public appearance until there's a big announcement to make" (EDMONTON SUN, 9/1).

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