Part 1 deals with the 2005 to 2007 time period. Part 2 (you can read it here) will handle the 2008 to 2009 period, leaving Part 3 (you can read it here) covering 2010, and Part 4 (link to 2011 time). Please enjoy the read, and remember to thank Mimi for her extensive work.
Edmonton’s Downtown Arena – All the News that was Fit to Print
10/2: With the NHL lockout history, Journal’s David Staples reports that Cal Nichols, member of the Oilers-owning Edmonton Investors’ Group has a new goal: to build a new arena.
10/3: Journal reports U of A’s Dan Mason says Canadians have little appetite to publicly fund NHL arenas; Mayor Mandel suggests a lottery might be way to fund.
12/5 Oilers Patrick LaForge tells Journal’s Shawn Ohler that the fact they sold out all 66 skyboxes (some for as high as $200,000/yr) is further evidence the team needs a new rink.
1/7: Journal’s MacKinnon muses about downtown arena, “That's not to disrespect sturdy, serviceable Rexall Place,” he writes.
1/7: Journal’s Lamphier writes that the city should “build a sparkling new downtown arena to house the Oilers,” locate it immediately east of the arts district and link it by pedway to Shaw Convention Centre.
1/12: 61% of Journal readers participating in Straw Poll think Lamphier and MacKinnon’s suggestions for downtown arena is evidence the men have had “one too many pucks to the head.”
3/28: Journal’s Gary Lamphier writes “If downtown is going to make a go of it, Edmonton needs a splashy new arena -- preferably east of the city centre, near the Shaw Conference Centre.”
5/24: "This is the best building, the best city to play in," Oilers defenceman Steve Staios tells Jim Macdonald of the Canadian Press during the Oilers’ first serious playoff run in 14 years.
9/14: Journal’s Paula Simons reports “anonymous backers” float idea for new arena on Canada Post site
11/14: Michael Phair, one of two councillors representing downtown, tells VUE Weekly’s Ross Moroz he has reservations about the arena plan. “At this time I would say that in my mind there are a lot of unanswered questions,” said Phair. “In my experience, buildings like this are dark during the day and on many evenings, plus they tend to be very sterile buildings, so they don’t bring a whole lot of life into the neighbourhood most of the time.” Phair told Moroz he expected “enthusiasm to die down once citizens realize that they will probably end up footing much of the bill for the project.”
11/16: Journal polls readers on downtown arena: 52% say “Great idea.” 48% say “Bad idea.”
12/22: Mayor Mandel on $1B downtown arena proposal: “We need to be creative and not burden the taxpayers.”
Daryl Katz appears as #16 on the list of Canadian’s Wealthiest 100 People. (Canadian Business Magazine, Winter 2006/2007)
1/05 Colby Cosh, National Post writes, “It's sports fans, above all, who are familiar with the system of semi- blackmail and bogus economics that has fed the current North American mania for stadium construction; who remember how Edmontonians were terrorized in the 1990s into lowering the Oilers' rent to $1 a year; and who recall that Edmonton built a new ballpark in 1995 that was promptly abandoned in mid-lease by its Triple-A tenant.”
1/19: Oilers Pres Patrick LaFarge tells Globe & Mail the team is excited by talk of a “new downtown arena megapalace”; declares current barn “tired”. (article ran with Canadian Press byline)
2/22 HOK Report says Rexall renovation to current NHL standard would cost $225-250M. Mayor Mandel tells the Journal’s Bill Mah, “"I think there's many ways to look at how we can do this. I've several ideas but I don't want to talk about them yet until we get a little further down the road, but we're not going to burden our taxpayers with a $400-million or $300-million debt to have a new facility. That just won't happen."
2/23: Mayor says a committee should look at new arena, evaluate locations. Tells the Journal’s Gordon Kent that a decision could be made by summer and the building completed within 3 to 4 years.
2/23: Journal’s Dan Barnes reports the Northlands HOK report was released to city council and “met with predictable negative reaction.” Northlands Chair tells Barnes they would like to be involved in any new building.
2/24: Journal editorial “If the principal goal of building a new arena is to create more boxes and high-value seats for the Oilers, why is this a question for taxpayers? Canada's three eastern NHL teams have each built new arenas in the past two decades and they were almost entirely paid for by investors. Why in conservative, wealthy, booming Alberta would we look to governments for anything more than construction permits?”
2/27: In a tongue-in-cheek fashion, Ricardo Acuno writes in VUE Weekly about his enthusiastic support for a publicly-funded downtown arena, “Here in Alberta we believe strongly that government has an active role to play in the economy and the business world—and when private for-profit businesses come looking for taxpayer dollars, we are happy to hand them out.”
3/9: Northlands Acting President Jerry Bouma tells the Journal’s Gordon Kent that an committee might take up to a year to make a recommendation, despite the Mayor’s hopes it will be done by July.
4/7: Participants in the annual inner city “Good Friday Outdoor Way of the Cross” walk tell the Journal’s Alexandra Zabjek they fear a new arena and other planned redevelopment will displace the poor living in the city’s core.
4/22: After placing a full page newspaper ad apologizing for the team’s miserable performance, Oilers’ owners group Cal Nichols tells the Journal’s Andrea Sands that if plans for a new downtown arena were to go ahead, it could help Oilers managers attract star talent and free agents.
4/24: Journal’s Gary Lamphier predicts arena proposal will attract “plenty of banks, private equity pools & major pension funds" looking to invest. Reports that Canada Western Bank’s Larry Pollock and Angus Watt of National Bank Financial both say there would be plenty of options for financing such a facility. And if the province threw its support and blue-chip credit rating behind the project, it would be a slam dunk.
4/26: Journal’s Paula Simons on why she’s not yet sold on the idea of a downtown arena, “I've lived and worked and visited in cities with downtown arenas. And in my experience, they effectively sterilized and depopulated the area for blocks around them. It was great when there was a game or a concert. And the rest of the time, the neighbourhood was dead.”
4/27: Journal editorial: “If Mandel believes wholeheartedly, he should make it the cornerstone of his re-election platform -- a vote for Mandel is a vote for a downtown arena that includes however many millions of public dollars. Or, if he thinks such political linkage is a little on the risky side, he could consult the community through a genuine referendum question on the municipal ballot.”
5/1: Paula Simons reports on the response she got from her 4/26 Journal column: “In this hockey-mad town, expressing the slightest doubt about the wonders of a new half-a-billion-dollar downtown arena is obviously an act of black heresy. To judge by the righteous indignation, I've clearly committed an unspeakable blasphemy. Seems I'm a whining, ignorant elitist, a small-town thinker, an idiot, the kind of person who's wrecking this city.”
5/5: In surprise bid, local billionaire Daryl Katz offers $145M to buy Oilers from struggling Edmonton Investors Group. A source tells the Edmonton Journal’s Gary Lamphier Katz “"understands" that a new downtown arena funded strictly by the taxpayer is a non-starter and his participation in fundraising may be necessary."I think he would be prepared, under the right circumstances, to take his share of funding for something like that," the source said.”
5/6: The EIG advises Katz the Oilers are not for sale. (John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal).
7/21: "There's pretty much a consensus among economists and sociologists that these investments don't bear a lot of fruit for the municipalities," Rick Eckstein, professor at Villanova University and author of Public Dollars, Private Stadiums: The Battle Over Building Sports Stadiums, told Kevin Libin of the National Post. Promises of revitalization and economic spin-offs don't live up to billing, he says, one reason why voters have grown jaded about stadium and arena proposals. In plebiscites, he says, "more and more often votes are getting voted down." Even when that happens, "they still go ahead and do it anyway."
7/25: Katz ups Oilers bid to $170M; promises to invest $100M in downtown arena, build training facility at U of A if offer accepted. (Joanne Ireland, Edmonton Journal)
8/7: Katz’ $185M Oilers purchase offer rejected. Josh Pekarsky of the Katz Group tells Bill Mah of Postmedia News there will be no more offers.
9/18: Ben Henderson, Ward 4 council candidate, tells Journal he’s in “wait and see” mode on arena. I am in a wait-and-see mode on the arena. “ I have huge concerns that it might just create a black hole in downtown that would only be truly active when the arena was in use. ... On the other side of the argument I have seen how effective Winnipeg's new arena, built on Portage Avenue right in the heart of downtown, has been ... “ (no byline)
9/21: Gordon Kent of the Edmonton Journal reports Mayor Mandel was questioned by a woman in the audience at an election forum who “asked for a referendum before any tax money is spent on a new arena to replace Rexall Place. Mandel insisted if the project goes ahead, it would be funded by the Oilers owners or some other source that doesn't involve city taxes. "It's not going to impact your pocketbook ... No taxes of yours will go into an arena."”
9/21: Ward 6 candidate Amarjeet Sohi, in a written response to an Edmonton Journal survey of candidates, “I do not support the building of a downtown arena and I don't see city council playing any role is this. What Edmonton needs are community-based arenas to provide recreational opportunities for young people and families.” (no byline)
9/25: Coun Sloan tells campaign forum if public going to borrow money, question should be put to vote. (no byline, Edmonton Journal)
9/27: Councillor Bryan Anderson responds to Journal survey, “Done well, an arena project can have a positive affect on a downtown area. At this time, we don't have enough information.” (no byline)
9/30: Councillor Linda Sloan responds to Journal survey, “I don't think there is anything wrong with Rexall Place that some renovations wouldn't fix. I do not believe that using public tax dollars to support a private franchise/arena would be responsible governance, particularly when we haven't been able in recent budgets to fund all the road and building maintenance that needs to be done.” (no byline)
10/1: Susan Ruttan, Edmonton Journal, writes that the issue of the downtown arena is flying under the radar during the election, although it will be one of the bigger issues facing new council.
10/2: Ward 2 candidate Dave Loken answers Journal’s candidates’ survey question regarding downtown arena: “As long as no taxpayer money is used. Edmonton has a shortage of ice times because there are not enough arenas, and Ward 2 is in need of a new recreation center.” (no byline)
10/5: Councillor Karen Leibovici responds to Journal candidate’s survey, “I need more information about the proposal for the downtown arena. I need to know what the pros and cons are, what the options are, how transportation will be provided to and from the arena, what we would do with Rexall Place and, of course, who would pay for it. Council's role would be to rezone land if there is a decision to go ahead. As well, I believe that council must ensure that this arena, if approved, is not a liability to the taxpayer.” (no byline)
10/10: Edmonton Journal editorial, “And of course, there's the question of money. Rightly, the mayor insists no city tax dollars will be involved, but voters might profit from a more vigorous discussion of how that can be accomplished, and under what circumstances that firm commitment might be bent.”
10/11: Susan Ruttan, Edmonton Journal reports that the domestic policy subcommittee of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. has concluded that building big stadiums and arenas don't help the local economy of cities. "America's infrastructure is crumbling while state and local officials approve taxpayer-financed professional sports stadiums," the subcommittee stated in a news release.
10/11: Gary Lamphier of the Journal laments lack of debate over substantive issues during the election. He says the downtown arena proposal was “currently consigned to political limbo until a city-appointed committee tenders its report in December.”
10/13: Edmonton Journal Straw Poll “Mayor Stephen Mandel is a big supporter of a new downtown arena, but says local tax dollars won't pay for it. Where would the money come from?” Private investors (26%) Increased oil royalties (7%) Mandel winning the lottery (8%) My pocket, eventually -- 59% There were 1,007 votes.
10/13: Roberta Brandes Gratz, an expert on cities and keynote speaker at the Heritage Canada Foundation conference held in Edmonton says that large projects like downtown arenas don't revitalize inner cities. "Arenas don't revitalize, period," the author of Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown, and The Living City: Thinking Small in a Big Way, told the conference. (Susan Ruttan, Edmonton Journal)
Note regarding 2007 Election: Records later show Stephen Mandel’s re-election campaign received a $15,000 donation from Katz Group Canada plus an additional $5,000 from Medicine Shoppe Canada. (Source: Office of the City Clerk)
11/20: Northlands takes out a full page newspaper ad trumpeting Rexall Place's recent third-place ranking by Pollstar Magazine for Canadian concert arenas and 13th worldwide in terms of concert ticket sales. Daniel Mason, a professor in the school of business and physical education at the UofA tells the Journal’s Mike Sadava that the ad's purpose is probably two-fold: to show that Rexall is a functioning event centre, and that Northlands has the capacity to operate a new facility if built.
12/13: Katz tables new $200M offer, which includes $100M to build a new arena. In a press release, Katz says, “"I have great respect for everything Cal and the EIG shareholders have done for the Oilers and for the City of Edmonton. I want to continue that tradition with a commitment to strong local ownership and an exciting vision for the Oilers. The centerpiece of that vision is a new world-class arena complex at the heart of a revitalized downtown." (Canada Newswire)
12/14: Coun Kim Krushell tells the Edmonton Journal’s Susan Ruttan that she’ll call for a plebiscite if arena involves large amount of tax money.
12/16: Coun Anderson suggests building arena near The Meadows east of Mill Woods. Says would spur LRT expansion. (Susan Ruttan, Edmonton Journal)