SBD/Issue 200/Facilities & Venues

Daryl Katz Makes Pitch For Hamilton Arena, Reviving NHL Hopes

Exec Says Katz' Hamilton Proposal Is Not
Being Used For Leverage In Oilers Arena Talks

Oilers Owner Daryl Katz is "making a pitch for control of Copps Coliseum and the future Pan Am stadium in order to potentially house professional sports teams" in Hamilton, according to Emma Reilly of the HAMILTON SPECTATOR. Katz also is "floating the possibility of an entertainment precinct around the west harbour and either the redevelopment of Copps Coliseum or a new NHL-calibre arena." The Hamilton City Council yesterday "heard an outline of the proposal and directed city staff to carry on negotiations" with Katz Entertainment Holdings Corp. The council "will make a decision about whether to sign a memorandum of understanding by Aug. 30," and if approved, the deal "positions the city to host an NHL team should the league allow" it. Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge yesterday represented KEHC in Hamilton, and he said that after watching RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie and the NHL "fight over bringing the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton, Katz's company decided to move in and take a 'more professional and more strategic' approach to the city's sports prospects." LaForge was "adamant the Oilers won't be moving to Hamilton and the proposal wasn't about getting leverage for a proposed massive new stadium and entertainment precinct in Edmonton." Katz currently is "fighting for public money for a new rink" in Edmonton, but Hamilton's potential deal with Katz "revolves around attracting an NHL team" to Hamilton. Unlike Balsillie, Katz and company officials are "already NHL insiders," and LaForge said that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was "aware of his proposal and his presence in Hamilton yesterday." LaForge added that if Katz assumed ownership of Copps Coliseum, the arena "would need a complete overhaul to meet NHL standards." Alternatively, Katz' group "would consider building a new arena to host a hockey team." Reilly notes it "isn't clear how the proposal will affect the Hamilton Tiger Cats, who are currently tangled in a facilitation process about the location of the Pan Am stadium" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 6/30).

BARGAINING CHIP? LaForge acknowledged that "dabbling in Southern Ontario -- a market that has shown strong interest in an NHL team -- may play poorly in Edmonton, where the Katz Group is struggling to win approval for a new downtown arena development." LaForge: "I think it's optically not perfect. It is (crappy) timing, maybe, in some people's eyes, and it does cause some thought in that direction. But it is what it is. This is not about the Oilers" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 6/30). In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes Katz "should make a clear statement to Edmonton and sign a location agreement immediately." The city "needs to know that Katz doesn't have a veiled threat in place for further negotiations involving the proposed downtown arena project." Jones: "If you're looking for conspiracy theories, this looked to be more Katz serving himself up as an NHL-friendly front man not named Jim Balsillie to open the door back up to Hamilton while setting himself up to effectively be AEG Canada. It may even position Katz to buy the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from Bob Young, who doesn't like the proposed location of the new Pan-Am Stadium which LaForge said he loved, and/or buy a soccer team to move into the Pan-Am stadium" (EDMONTON SUN, 6/30).

POWER PLAY: In Hamilton, Steve Milton writes AEG "has a lot of influence" in the NHL, and "not much gets done in the NHL that Phil Anschutz is strongly against." Katz has retained the services of AEG, which also owns the Kings, and if the two "nestle into Hamilton, big money will immediately follow them and there won't be any shortage of would-be owners" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 6/30).

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