Daryl Katz wants a new arena in Edmonton

rexallDaryl Katz, founder of the Rexall pharmacy company, announced yesterday that he had acquired 100% of the outstanding shares in the Edmonton Investors Group (EIG), making him the new owner of the Edmonton Oilers (pending league approval which is widely expected to come without any problems). Here’s what the somewhat reclusive Katz said in yesterday’s statement:

“Like the EIG and all Edmontonians, I want what is best for the team, the
community and the city. I want to help secure a world-class building and
continue the EIG’s legacy by bringing the Cup back to Edmonton.”

Today he held a press conference with select members of the media, which I listened to on 630ched. It was the first time since he started pursuing the Oilers last March that we’ve heard him speak about his motivations. I found most of his answers to be fairly simplistic, without much meat behind them. He said “I can’t comment on that” quite a few times.

One thing he did make clear, however, is that he is eager to see a new arena built in the heart of downtown. He wants the Oilers to play at the centre of the community.

Katz has suggested he’d be willing to commit $100 million towards the construction of a new arena. With estimates for the project ranging from $250 million to over $500 million (and possibly as high as $1 billion depending on the scope), there’s a lot of funding that will need to come from somewhere else. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe it should come from taxpayers. All Katz said today was that “there are lots of ways to fund real estate.”

I’m glad Katz is the new owner of the Oilers. Almost everyone associated with the team seems to like him, and I don’t think there’s any question that he’s got Edmonton’s best interests at heart. He also seems fairly level-headed about things, making clear today that he wants to read a pending report on the feasibility of a new arena before making any decisions.

That said, I hope his eagerness to build a new rink in Edmonton’s downtown does not turn into blind determination. Katz needs to be able to say no if it becomes clear that a new arena will only happen with significant public funding, at the expense of other, more important public projects.