SBD/Issue 93/Facilities & Venues

Oilers, Northlands At Odds Over Proposed Downtown Arena

Oilers, Northlands Appear To Be In A
Stalemate Over Proposed Downtown Arena
The "historic blood feud" between the Oilers and Northlands, which built and operates Rexall Place, "has poisoned negotiations for a downtown arena," according to Scott McKeen of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. The two sides "haven't met since early October when Northlands received a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum from the Oilers." Sources said that Northlands was "offered only a minor role in the proposed downtown arena." Northlands "would continue as arena operator, for a fee, but share in none of the event revenues." The Oilers also "demand that the existing lease on Rexall Place -- it extends to 2014 -- be torn up so the NHL club can begin to immediately collect revenues from concerts and other non-hockey events." Northlands currently "pays all the maintenance and operating costs for Rexall Place, while the Oilers lease the building for just $1 a year," and Northlands "argues the Oilers enjoy one of the best arena deals" in the NHL. However, McKeen notes the Oilers' offer to Northlands "isn't chump change," as Northlands "would be compensated at a level consistent with the current revenues it receives from Rexall Place." Meanwhile, AEG is Oilers Owner Daryl Katz' choice to "replace Northlands as the partner in developing and managing" the proposed new arena, and Katz "argues he needs all the revenues from the new arena to make it and the Oilers viable." An announcement of "project details is expected soon," as Katz apparently wants the city council to "fast-track zoning approvals for the site." But the "mood at City Hall remains skeptical, if not hostile to the project" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/27).

POWER PLAY: In Edmonton, David Staples reported Northlands is "hiring a leading U.S. sports consulting firm to help come up with its own plans for a made-in-Edmonton arena plan." Northlands said that Minneapolis-based CSL Int'l and Alberta-based Spotlight Strategies "will help the community group to focus on ensuring the broader interests of Edmontonians are met." In Northlands' announcement Monday, neither Katz nor the Oilers "were mentioned as partners or players in the arena project." Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge said that he "will wait to see what the Northlands announcement means." LaForge: "I'm trying to understand what it means. ... I don't have any comment until we have time to digest" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/26).

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