The Charrette has a good discussion of the recent arena news. You’ve probably heard by now that the Katz Group is now on record saying they would consider alternate locations if the downtown arena doesn’t move ahead:
“We continue to believe that the best solution for the city and the Oilers is a downtown development and we remain committed to those negotiations. However, to the extent that we cannot be certain of the result of those negotiations, we are open to alternatives to find another long-term home for the Oilers in the Edmonton region.”
At this point a statement like that is nothing but political maneuvering. The Katz Group has never indicated they would look to build elsewhere prior to that statement, so I find it hard to believe it’s true. Here’s a look back at what I mean.
The Katz Group issued a press release on March 25, 2008 voicing its support for a new downtown arena complex. John Karvellas, Rexall Sports President, said:
“Rexall Sports shares the Committee’s view that a downtown arena complex can help revitalize Edmonton’s core and become the centrepiece for a number of major developments in the adjoining area, as similar projects have done for other cities.”
On August 31, 2009 the Katz Group appointed Patrick LaForge as its principal point of contact. He said:
“At the end of the day, we envision a vibrant downtown with new housing, retail, office and public space, hotels, residential housing and other amenities, all anchored by a world-class entertainment and sports venue. We envision a neighbourhood that is well-integrated with public transit, livable, walkable, environmentally responsible and a benefit to downtown, surrounding communities and all of Northern Alberta.”
On September 29, 2009 the revitalizedowntown.ca domain name was registered. The website didn’t launch until February 24, 2010. Here’s what I said at the time:
Annoyed with the domain http://www.revitalizedowntown.ca. Katz is certainly not the only person working to revitalize downtown #yeg.
Here’s what Bob Black said in a speech on February 9, 2010:
“In all of the public opinion research we have done, the opportunity to revitalize downtown is what has people most excited about this project. It is also the reason why the mayor and the city have made revitalizing downtown one of their top priorities.”
In a speech to City Council on July 21, 2010, here’s what Daryl Katz had to say:
“I believe we have a once in a generation opportunity — through the Oilers, and through the need for a new arena — to do something transformative for downtown and for our city.”
In December 2010, the answers to questions from Council were released. Councillor Thiele asked the Katz Group: If no new downtown arena district is built in Edmonton and the Oilers will not play in a renovated Rexall Place, where will they play? The response:
“Our singular focus is upon negotiating a mutually satisfactory agreement with the City of Edmonton that will facilitate the construction of a new downtown arena. We are confident that this can be achieved.”
And here’s what Bob Black said on May 18, 2011 when the Katz Group and the City agreed on an agreement framework:
“From the beginning we have approached this project with the twin objectives of creating a major engine to drive the revitalization of downtown and of creating a model for the long term sustainability of the Oilers in Edmonton.”
So, after all that, they release a simple statement saying they’re exploring alternatives? I call bullshit.
But perhaps, as The Charrette pointed out, the damage is done. Either they’re lying about looking elsewhere, or they’ve been lying to us for three years about how important downtown is.