Mayor Stephen Mandel professes to be baffled by what Oilers owner Daryl Katz wants in the ongoing agony that is the arena negotiations.
“I can no longer define what Mr. Katz is asking for or what he’s not asking for,” a deeply frustrated mayor said on Tuesday, after Katz gobsmacked city council with a new list of demands, including a $6 million a year subsidy which Katz apparently believes he can get through casino money. (Ignore for a moment that the allocation of casino money is a provincial matter, not a civic matter. Let’s not concern ourselves with legalities here.)
Well, let me help, if I may.
In answer to the question, ‘what does Daryl Katz want?’, the answer is quite simple.
He wants everything, because he needs everything to make this crazy venture work.
There, Mr. Mayor, is that so hard to understand?
Here’s what Mandel doesn’t understand. Despite appearances, Katz is not a billionaire with enough money to spare that he bought an expensive bauble called the Edmonton Oilers. No, he’s a philanthropist, a good hearted son of Edmonton who, by golly, saw his hometown team was in trouble, and put everything he had into rescuing the team, all for the good of Good Ol’ Our Town. His wife thinks he’s crazy, he told the Edmonton Journal, his personal Pravda. Gosh, he told 630 CHED (Katz being interviewed by CHED, on a show devoted to all-things Oilers, is like Mitt Romney going on Fox News) he’s just trying to make a go of this crazy venture, and he just can’t do it without a little help from his friends. After all, Edmonton is a “small” market in the NHL, unlike metropolises like Winnipeg and Ottawa and Nashville and wherever the Carolina Hurricanes play. All poor Daryl has is a hockey mad city that sells out every game at top dollar to watch a crappy team play crappy hockey. How is he supposed to make a go of it when he’s been dealt such a lousy hand?
Mandel, clearly bewildered and angry, wants Katz to appear before an open council meeting to answer questions himself about what he wants. So far, Katz’s strategy has been to send representatives to talk to council. But Mandel is tired of hearing from bishops — he wants to hear from the pope. It might be easier to get the real pope to drop by for a chat than to get Katz to talk to an open council meeting.
Now, let’s get serious: Katz has screwed the pooch. Every ounce of goodwill he had — and he had gallons of it — is gone. He had handled this so poorly, you have to wonder if he’s getting advice from Mitt Romney’s brain trust. My guess it that there are dozens of public relations people in Edmonton who are pulling their hair out, dying to get their hands on this fiasco. Katz, by his high-handed actions and secretive dealings, may have permanently scuttled what was a great deal for his hockey team.
There is no hope now that the arena will be built before the lease expires at Rexall, forcing Katz to negotiate a new deal with Northlands. You’ve got to know that they’re rubbing their hands together with glee at Northlands.
If the arena deal goes sideways, Katz has no one to blame but himself. He’s been arrogant and secretive. Nobody believes his ‘poor me’ whine. Personally, I think the majority of Edmontonians want a new arena, and believe that some sort of public-private partnership is needed – but not at any cost. If Katz has to wait a few more years to get his new pleasure palace so be it.