Thursday, October 13, 2011

Arena Timeline 2008-2009

The following information is presented by Mimi Williams aka @willmimi on twitter. This is the second part of what appears will be a 3 part series. A huge effort has been made to compile this, and the work presented is copyright by the author.

Part 1 (you can read it here) deals with the 2005 to 2007 time period. Part 2 handles the 2008 to 2009 period, leaving Part 3 (you can read it here) covering 2010 and Part 4  to cover 2011. 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 (Part 2)


1/2: Bill Butler, new chairman of the Oilers investors group, says they've been advised by lawyers not to accept Katz's offer of $188 million. Jim MacDonald of the Canadian Press reported that Daryl Katz responded “late Wednesday with a fiery one-page statement denouncing Butler's comments and questioning whether the owners were acting in the best interests of the team.”

1/10: John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal, reports that Wayne Gretzky supports Daryl Katz’ bid for the Oilers: “"He'll be a great owner here," Grezky said Wednesday about Katz, whose most recent offer to buy all of the EIG shares amounts to a $188-million asset purchase. "He's an Edmontonian, he lives here, he thrives on being in the city, he's proud of being here."”

1/21: Scott McKeen writes in the Edmonton Journal, “I think Edmontonians won't hear a peep about a downtown arena until after the provincial election. The feasibility study must still be completed. But the thing will be kept under wraps until after the next government is elected. The last thing arena proponents want is for their plans to become part of the campaign discussion. Candidates and party leaders could get boxed in by the debate to the point of making promises to oppose public funding of a new arena.”

2/6: Allan Maki of the Globe and Mail reports the Oilers owners have accepted Daryl Katz’ latest offer of $200-million for the team and a $100 million commitment to building a new arena in downtown Edmonton.

2/7: Mayor advises reporters that the Arena Task Force report, originally expected in early January, would be delayed until about a week after the provincial election. Edmonton Journal’s Susan Ruttan writes, “Mandel again emphasized that no property tax dollars or grant money will go toward a new arena...Premier Ed Stelmach has also declined to fund a new Edmonton arena.”

2/10: Journal’s Susan Ruttan reports on Mayor’s 90-day Plan, announced after his re-election. “The first report, on building a new arena to replace Rexall Place, has been delayed until March, the week after the provincial election. One delaying factor may be Premier Ed Stelmach's flat refusal to pay for such an arena.”

2/12: Urban affair professor Mark Rosentraub tells the Journal’s Dan Barnes a downtown arena could be beneficial for Edmonton. ““Rosentraub said he won't be advocating the City of Edmonton taxpayers shell out. "We're not talking about cities subsidizing these developments." When it's done right, a corporation buys the naming rights and the building owner partners with other moneyed corporations to finance much of the project. Mayor Stephen Mandel has said many times that city property taxes and grants won't be used..... The long-awaited feasibility report will no doubt present more financing options, as well as a handful of downtown locations.”

2/13: The Journal’s Susan Ruttan reports on remarks made by UA Prof. Brad Humphreys, a sports economist who moved to the University of Alberta last fall. He testified before the U. S. Congress on the subject of public subsidies for sports facilities and feels that arenas don’t produce jobs or boost the economy but might increase civic pride. “New arenas may attract bars and restaurants around them, he said, but their customers would otherwise have been in bars and restaurants in other parts of town. So, no new economic activity is generated, he said.”

2/15: ‘Edmontonians Against Public Money for the Downtown Oilerplex’ facebook page launched.

3/2: “No person or company will ever move to Edmonton instead of Winnipeg because there is an NHL team here,” UofA Professor Dan Mason tells the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples. He adds that it’s widely accepted among economists that money not spent on the Oilers would be spent elsewhere in the city. "For example, the discourse in Edmonton right now around a new arena in the downtown, it doesn't talk about economic benefits because people generally have a feeling that that's not an argument anymore."

3/15: Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal, reports that the city auditor advised council “More than half of Edmonton's city-owned buildings are in fair to unacceptable condition and the structures need $44 million worth of roof and other major repairs.” Land and buildings manager Rick Daviss tells Kent that maintenance isn’t as “sexy” as the “fresh, new projects” that everybody’s looking for.

3/24 Arena Feasibility Committee Chair Lyle Best tells CTV News that his committee will recommend that an arena will be built downtown. “ You're not going to hear a design because that wasn't our mandate. And you're not going to hear a location, because obviously the next step is whoever is going to build this is going to make some considerations about where they're going to have it,'' he told the station. (Canadian Press)

3/25: Arena Committee Report recommends downtown arena, with all 3 levels of gov't contributing to $450M cost. Susan Ruttan of the Edmonton Journal quotes the report, "It is highly probable that an Edmonton project will require contributions from all orders of government in order for it be economically viable."

3/26: The Premier reiterates he has no intention of funding an arena. "We haven't seen any facts or figures .... but the premier has maintained and continues to maintain that this is an inappropriate use of tax money, that provincial taxpayer dollars will not go towards a professional sporting arena," Premier’s Office spokesperson Tom Olsen told Jason Markusoff of the Edmonton Journal.

3/27: Journal’s Simons writes “fix was in” with committee, predicts taxpayers will be left holding bag. “What is shocking, though, is the utter vacuousness of the so-called "feasibility study" released with such fanfare this week. This study was 11 months in the making. It cost $250,000 -- a bill split three ways between the taxpayers of Edmonton, the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Northlands. But the document unveiled Tuesday morning is long on cheerleading rhetoric and all but devoid of substantive content.”

3/27: Journal Straw Poll “What's your reaction to the report recommending a new downtown arena?” Finally, let's get on with it. (44%) This is going to cost us for sure. (13%) Why can't we put our energies into something important? (43%) There were 2,199 votes.

3/29: Councillors Sohi & Caterina complain to the Edmonton Journal’s Mike Sadava they can’t see arena economic analysis reports partially paid for by city. “"We were told as a council we couldn't be trusted to see those," said Councillor Caterina.

4/2: Kevin Libin of the National Post writes that the Arena Feasibility Committee’s claim that a new arena will "draw millions to the city annually from far and wide" is “contradicted by economic data spanning three decades, typically showing zero tangible benefits to the local economy” according to the University of Alberta’s Brad Humphreys. Humphreys points to “academic studies show that local news organizations, which sell a lot of papers from sports coverage, consistently line up behind new-arena plans. "The media coverage is uniformly favourable, no matter what the terms of the deal."”

4/5: Mike Sadava of the Edmonton Journal recalls how Peter Pocklington wrestled $15million (for Coliseum renovations and to build a ball park) out of city council in 1994 when he threatened to move the team, despite the fact that 80% of callers to the Citizens Action Centre opposed the deal.

4/19: Dr. Brad Humphreys tells the Edmonton Journal’s Susan Ruttan that Edmontonians should brace themselves for an arena sales pitch. “Edmontonians will be told the arena will be an engine of economic growth, he said, and that it will ensure Edmonton's place as a world-class city.” He added, however, "World-class city status does not get conferred by a shiny new National Hockey League arena."

5/7: In a mid-term report card on city council, the Journal’s Scott McKeen observes that the Mayor’s “downtown arena proposal isn't exactly popular.”

7/20: David Staples of the Edmonton Journal reports a UofA Pop Research Lab survey asked if people wanted to use municipal funds to build a downtown arena: 17% strongly supported the idea, 31% supported it somewhat, 50 per cent were against it, with the remaining two per cent not answering or not sure. "You can say with a great deal of certainty that it wouldn't pass a referendum," University of Alberta sports business professor Dan Mason, who co-authored the study, tells Staples.

8/10: Through an access-to-information request, Cdn Taxpayers Federation finds that earlier drafts of the arena committee report draft mentioned TO, VCR, OTT & MTL arenas built with private funds, information omitted from the final report. "Clearly the mayor's committee believed that the fact that all of the new NHL arenas in Canada were built without any tax dollars hurt their case that Edmonton needs taxpayers to help foot this bill," the CTF’s Scott Hennig told the Edmonton Journal’s Lorne Gunter.

8/14: Councillor Tony Caterina tells the Edmonton Examiner’s Joelle Tomek it makes no sens to move the arena from it’s current site: “Everything is there. All the infrastructure’s in place, LRT is right there, the Yellowhead is there, Wayne Gretzky (Drive) is there, parking is there.”

11/14: Economic downturn plus financial uncertainty created by arena talks forces city to guarantee $60M loan for Northlands expansion project, the Journal’s Gordon Kent reports. He quotes a letter from Northlands vice-president Mark Bamford which explains, "given what has transpired in the financial markets the last few months combined with the ongoing discussions around a new arena in downtown Edmonton and how this might affect Northlands financially."

11/25: Architect Gene Dub proposes a $300M arena be built south of police headquarters. He tells the Journal’s Gordon Kent he wants to build it in “copper above the street with the rink on the third level, leaving a space underneath where traffic and pedestrians can pass through and shop during the summer.”

11/26: Councillors tell the Journal’s Jamie Hall that Dub’s proposal is “interesting.” "I'm not sure we were the audience for it, though," Councillor Iveson told her. "I think ultimately the decision to build another rink anywhere is first a question for whatever private entities might want to assemble the rink and pay for it. Certainly, I've been clear that that shouldn't be the city."

12/13 The Mayor tells the Journal’s Gordon Kent that officials from the city, Northlands and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz's company have been talking "quietly" about the next steps to take on arena. A proposal might be made public as early as March, the Mayor said, without releasing any details.

12/15: Scott McKeen of the Journal reports that the Mayor says that Northlands and the Katz Group have been meeting quietly on the arena project and that costs have been reduced significantly. “"We estimate the cost of the arena to now be substantially under $400 million -- substantially," the is quoted.

12/17: NHL’s Gary Bettman tells a Chamber of Commerce luncheon the Oilers need new arena. Journal’s Dan Barnes dubs his speech a “political drive-by, a financial hit-and-run.” Barnes noted that the luncheon was hosted by CofC Chair Patrick LaForge who “doubles” as president of the Edmonton Oilers.


3/7: Cal Nichols steps aside as chair of the Edmonton Oilers to focus his energy on saving the city centre airport. The Edmonton Journal’s Scott McKeen wrotes that there was concern that his work on that issue might bleed over into the downtown arena issue, “As one councillor put it to me Friday: "If he (Nichols) and the Oilers can afford private planes, they can afford to build their own arena."

5/6: Mayor Mandel tells a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he expect downtown arena discussions to resume soon. (Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal)

5/7: Northlands Chair says they’re keen to work with Katz Group on arena. Northlands Chair Andy Huntley tells the Journal’s Gary Lamphier, “"Given our experience and history, we're really confident we'll have a role. Northlands clearly has the core competency."

8/20: Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Global Edmonton asks, “The City should provide taxpayer's money for a new Hockey Arena.” Result: Three quarters (76%) of Edmontonians 'disagree' (46% strongly/31% somewhat).

8/28: Citing unnamed sources close to the Katz Group, the Edmonton Journal’s Gordon Kent & Gary Lamphier report Katz is about to announce a $1B project that will include an arena, a practice rink and student housing, towards which he is willing to invest $100M. Bryan Anderson responds: “I don’t think there’s an appetite on council for the involvement of a whole bunch of municipal dollars.”

8/29: Again citing an unnamed source, the Journal’s Richard Warnica writes, “The source said the new 18,000-to 20,000-seat arena would be part of a $1 billion-plus project that would include a second rink and drive related casino, hotel, condo, retail, student housing and office developments.”

8/31: The popular hockey blog “Battle of Alberta” begins an ongoing Downtown Arena Primer which can still be found here:

9/1: Patrick LaForge holds a news conference to announce the Katz Group has reached deals for the Baccarat Casino site and the block east of the Greyhound bus station. (Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal)

9/1: Edmonton Journal Straw Poll: “What do you think of the ambitious arena project Oilers owner Daryl Katz seems to have in the works?” Great plan, let's do it! (43%) Downtown is no place for an arena.(14%) It's too early to say. (6%) I don't care as long as he spends his own money. (37%) There were 2,705 votes.

9/2: “Katz and company must also come forward with hat in hand. They must not patronize us with wildly inflated estimates of the Oilers' economic impact. The Oilers pay about $50 million annually to migrant workers, who flee town after the season ends.” Scott McKeen, Edmonton Journal.

9/2: Edmonton Journal Straw Poll: “How much taxpayers' money should go toward the Oilers' downtown arena?”  Not one red cent. (58%) A decent portion. (8%) Whatever it takes on top of Katz's $100M. (10%) Hard to say without more details. (21%) I'll pay anything not to hear about it anymore. (3%)  There were 1,431 votes.

9/4: Premier Stelmach tells the Calgary Herald’s Tamara Gignac Albertans will not be paying for any portion of an NHL rink in Calgary or Edmonton. "It's very clear:we're not putting money into arenas."

9/4: Gordon Kent of the Edmonton Journal reports that Rexall Place has been ranked 10th in the world for concert and event ticket sales among arenas with more than 15,000 seats, 2nd in Canada by Venues Today, a trade magazine.

9/6: Patrick LaForge tells the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples that the Katz Group is looking at casino funding to help fund the arena. The CTF’s Scott Hennig disagrees, “"You'd end up seeing other charities, more legitimate charities, losing out on funding because of it."

9/12: Pat LaForge s Oilers “lost quite a bit of money last year” and Katz Group will need all arena revenues, report the Journal’s David Staples and Gary Lamphier. “"We're interested in being the best in the world. I'm not trying to poke Northlands in the eye here. ... Northlands has done a good job so far. Nobody would have an issue with that. (But) the new world is big operators like AEG, Live Nation and the like. They are creating a new world of preferred outlets that they bring their best Triple-A entertainment to, and we want our place to be one of those stops, and want them probably to be one of our partners."

9/15: Journal’s Paula Simons questions arena location: “The arena's proponents would like to present their bold plan as a fait accompli. But this project will have a radical impact on the shape of our downtown. No matter who pays for the arena, or who profits from it, we citizens should--and do--have the right to decide if this is indeed an appropriate site for this urban megaproject. Just because this particular property deal suits the financial interests of those who are buying the land and those who are selling it doesn't make it good urban planning, or good for the rest of us.”

9/20: Patrick LaForge tells the Journal’s David Staples that the Katz Group is in the process of hiring “starchitect” to design arena. "Visually, it needs to be an icon," LaForge says of the arena. "If you look at certain cities, the arch in St. Louis is a signature piece, the CN Tower is a signature piece in Toronto. My hope is, and for our group is, that architecturally we can come to the table with something like that.”

9/23: Northlands Chair Andy Huntley tells the Journal’s David Staples there’s no way the Katz Group can build an arena without public support. "When it starts to get over $400 million, there will have to be in some form or fashion public support, likely from two orders or more of government to get this accomplished."

9/26: Journal’s Gary Lamphier questions why no private developers/partners have stepped forward. “why has no hotel chain, no casino operator, no condo builder or commercial developer proclaimed his or her support for the project, even in principle?” Proposes that no CRL be approved unless adjacent private development is confirmed.

9/29: Gary Lamphier of the Journal reports his 9/26 column drew a “cranky response” from the Katz Group. An unnamed spokesperson is quoted, “"Daryl has had discussions with (private arena operators) AEG, Delaware North and others about their potential participation, and those discussions are also ongoing. A number of architects have been interviewed, but a selection has not been made. And Daryl has spent many millions of dollars to get the project this far with no assurance of anything from anyone."

 10/7: Journal’s Scott McKeen calls Katz invitation to councillors for secret meeting sign of “bungling”. He writes, “Others in the civic administration pointed out potential legal issues with the invitation. Councillors risk violating municipal regulations if more than six of them meet in secret. City solicitor Anne Jarman, in an e-mail to councillors, warned them of the risk and also suggested that if they were to attend individually, they should decline the Katz Group's offer of a free lunch, presumably because no such thing exists.”

 10/9: John MacKinnon, of the Edmonton Journal, “Some already have a perception that Katz is looking for a public handout to build a fancy new home for the Edmonton Oilers. End of story. Katz will have to override that perception for this project to proceed smoothly.”

10/24: “On a project this complex, this crucial to the future of the city, it would be helpful for the Oilers to swagger a little less, to share a little more, to collaborate much more with city councillors, on and on.” John MacKinnon, Edmonton Journal.

11/2: Edmonton Journal reports that Daryl Katz and Peter Elzinga met with Education Minister David Hancock at the legislature. “Hancock said he believes Elzinga is working for the Katz Group, but didn't know if he was listed in the province's new lobbyist registry.” (no byline)

11/4: “After neglecting city hall for months, then botching a meeting with councillors -- inadvertently asking them to an illicit gathering --Katz now seems to be listening and learning. For the past couple of weeks he has been sneaking into City Hall for secret meetings with councillors. Katz probably viewed the visits as courtesy calls, or missions of diplomacy. Instead, they ended up as educational field trips on the realities of civic politics and red tape. "It's completely new territory for him," one participant told me. Katz, he said, is used to snapping his fingers and getting things done. "So he's trying to make things happen through the sheer force of his energy and will." Scott McKeen, Edmonton Journal.

11/7: Katz Group hires former Deputy Premier Peter Elzinga and Joan Forge, who ran communications for Premier Ed Stelmach's party leadership campaign in 2006, to lobby province. (Archie McLean, Edmonton Journal)

11/12: Forbes Magazine reports Oilers posted a $9.4M operating profit for the 2008-9 season; LaForge tells the Journal’s Gary Lamphier that Forbes numbers were “speculative”, that they had “break-even year”. Lamphier also notes “Meanwhile, the Oilers'debt load--which stood at zero before the club was acquired by Katz in 2008 for $200 million--has jumped to 60 per cent of the club's current franchise value, or about $100 million, Forbes says.”

11/22: Brad Humphreys of the UofA tells David Staples of the Edmonton Journal there are little economic spinoffs in building professional sports facilities. "What I found was that there is no evidence that the presence of a professional sports franchise, or the presence of an arena or stadium, had any positive impact on local income or local employment." The Oilers Patrick LaFarge responded, "To a large degree, it's people with Humphrey's view that prevents us from building the next Eiffel Tower, the next Peace Arch, the next CN Tower, because people who think like him can't find the economic rationalization to do it.”
11/25: Councillor Bryan Anderson tells the Gateway’s Antony Ta, “I don’t know if there’s enough support on city council to contribute public funds to a downtown arena. No city in its right mind can operate two large venues like Rexall Place and a downtown arena at the same time — they would both go broke.”

12/3: CBC News reports the Katz Group has hired international firm AEG to help with the arena development. "AEG is a world leader in sports and entertainment developments, especially as related to urban revitalization projects," said Patrick LaForge, president of the Oilers.

12/4: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples writes that the Katz Group has hired AEG to “get into feasibility studies, working with the city and with the master architect. The Katz Group is close to hiring one. "We're at the place were we are negotiating with our first choice (architect) on the deal," LaForge said. "The next move is to wrap up the master architect and then we've got the two key pieces moving together.””

12/7: Canadian Business Magazine names Daryl Katz as 17th on its annual 100 Richest Canadians list. They say he’s worth $2.36B.

12/13: Former Oilers owners group member Cal Nichols tells David Staples of the Edmonton Journal that without a new arena the future of the Oilers franchise will not be secure.

12/17: Citing “confidential numbers” among the info provided by Katz Group along with public information, Economic Development Edmonton tells the Journal’s Gordon Kent the arena could generate $1.25B in wages.

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