Bettman hauls out every last argument for Oilers arena

League commissioners demanding new homes for their teams shouldn’t be news at this point, and yet it is. And so, Canadian papers were all abuzz this weekend over NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s declaration that “it’s obviously essential that the [Edmonton] Oilers have a new arena. … There’s no question about it, they’re not going to stay in this building.”

Continued Bettman:

“This is not comparable to what our teams typically play in, anymore,” Bettman said. “The revenue streams are not comparable to what goes on in new arenas.

“This building, by any standard, is antiquated and outdated. For a team to be competitive across the board, including its revenue streams, it needs to be in a competitive arena, and this one isn’t.”

Bettman added that “for a market of this size, what [Oilers owner Daryl Katz] is doing borders on being generous, as opposed to being an investment.” He said in a small-market city like Edmonton a mix of public and private money is necessary to make the project sustainable.

Let’s see, there’s the move threat, the obsolescence claim, the “team can’t compete charge” — yep, Bettman hit the stadium playbook trifecta! He didn’t complain about the quality of the chef’s salads, but you can’t have everything.

Edmonton city councillor Amarjeet Sohi immediately fired back at Bettman, saying yesterday, “‘Either you build the arena or we are going to leave.’ — I think that is totally inappropriate. What he stated I think undermines the good will and undermines the negotiations that are going on now.” Which is, of course, why the NHL had Bettman say it and not Katz. Somebody needs a refresher course in good cop/bad cop.


11 comments on “Bettman hauls out every last argument for Oilers arena

  1. Well, one good thing about this is that now that the Weasel has spoken-out for the deal most Canadians will be instinctively against it. In fact, at least one Edmontonian is trying to organise resistance to this swindle of public funds: www.speakupedmonton.ca . I wish them luck!

  2. BTW Neil, and I only point this out as a long time reader who knows how conscientious you are to high-light particular “Canadianisms” when you recognise them (sure, I’m flattered that you mention our little stadium swindles at all), while in Canada, Bettman would have hit a “Triactor” of complaints and not a “Trifecta”. I Just thought you’d appreciate that :-)

  3. I learn something every day! Thanks, Sean. (By the double-it-and-add-30 rule, I would have guessed it’d be a trigintisexifecta…)

  4. Yep, standard boilerplate. I’m just disappointed that Bettman didn’t announce which arena the Oilers WOULD be playing in in 2015… because we all know that there are just sooo many markets clawing at the NHL office’s doors demanding that they take their money.

    Mr. Katz might choose to move his team from his self professed “beloved hometown” (which, btw, is in the top ten in game day arena revenues in the league – even with it’s allegedly antiquated arena). But one thing is certain, no matter how sweet a deal he gets elsewhere (barring Toronto, which he can’t get to without paying the Leafs $400m or so), he will make less money than he is making in Edmonton.

    If he really wants to take his toy and go ‘home’, there’s really nothing anyone can do to stop him. If he’s willing to lose money to do it, well, that pretty much sums up his commitment to the city, don’t you think?

  5. Sean:

    Well said. It’s mark of Katz’ lack of comprehension that he has Bettman do the deed. I would bet a good solid 10% of the minority who actually are in favour of public money going into an arena are now questioning their judgment… ‘what, you mean I agree with the Count??? that can’t be…’

    Unfortunately, the lame duck retiring mayor wants this to happen. He has already shouted down a couple of councillors who had reasonable questions (ahh, democracy) to ask. So, I suspect it will happen, unless concerned citizens can force a plebiscite (which they can, if they are organized and work to the incredibly tight deadline they will be given).

    My guess is that that plebiscite would return a 70% no vote. And that’s why there won’t be one if Mandel can possibly prevent it.

  6. Interesting Good Cop Bad Cop reference!

    There is a 2006 Canadian Bilingual film called Bon Cop, Bad Cop: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Cop,_Bad_Cop

    In it, a serial killer commits many hockey-related murders, which ate thinly-veiled jabs at the NHL.

    One target was the Hockey Commissioner ‘Harry Buttman’.

  7. Interesting Good Cop Bad Cop reference!

    There is a 2006 Canadian Bilingual film called Bon Cop, Bad Cop: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Cop,_Bad_Cop

    In it, a serial killer commits many hockey-related murders, which ate thinly-veiled jabs at the NHL.

    One target was the Hockey Commissioner ‘Harry Buttman’.

  8. There’s a sports doc that the Oilers have been making with TSN called Oil Change. It’s at part four right now and deals with the rebuilding of the Oilers team.

    The latest episode included the Oiler players visiting a downtrodden school and preaching the importance of goals, nutrition, physical activity followed by them mingling with the kids and enjoying a snack. One of the clips includes a kid talking to a disinterested Devan Dubnyk (goalie) about why it’s soooooo important to get the downtown rink built, how it’ll spurn future growth and other big buildings will go up as well.

    Because after all – nothing is going on downtown according to the kid (and the Oilers).

    I found that extremely devious and self-serving but am not surprised.

  9. Andrew;

    Sounds about right…

    My favourite was Craig Simpson (announcer, former Oiler, not generally thought of as a genius) discussing the arena during a break in play last week.

    “Well, as you can see, there’s a lot of snow building up on the ice… it’s obvious there’s a need for new building with all the other events they have in here”.

    Ok, where to start…

    Maybe with the fact that the snow building up on the ice doesn’t really have anything to do with the number of other events in the building?

    Or the fact that there are many other events in the building pretty much eliminating the argument that the building isn’t good enough to attract other events? (the Coliseum is one of the busier venues in Canada… I think it’s sixth or so)

    Or that any new building will, by definition, have even more non-hockey events in it if the ‘additional revenue’ argument is true? Even Katz admits this…

    Talk about a “stop helping me” moment…

  10. JB

    You’ve covered the bases well.

    I’ve got one question that I’ve asked elsewhere and don’t know if I’ve had a decent response.

    If Kansas City can build a world class arena that’s aching for a major league tenant and Glendale can build an arena that all signs point to as being a pretty decent hockey building minus the lack of crowds (or maybe that’s a plus) and both these buildings were built in the storm of real estate construction in the states and both were about 180M and 215M – why does Edmonton need a building that will cost $450M+?

    To sell hockey to a market already to buy hockey?

    Doesn’t make much sense to me. This could be closer to a slam-dunk deal for both sides if the asking price was much more reasonable.

  11. It’s a good question, Andrew.

    Building a copy (although slight alterations would have to be made for technical and ‘professional’ reasons) of any of Glendale, Bloomington, Minn, or Atlanta’s arenas for less than $250M should be easy, even a decade later.

    I’ve asked that question of reporters & arena proponents alike. No answer, other than “that’s what it will cost”.

    No design. No engineering. No tender.
    But they “know” what it will cost.

    You know what that means to me? That they’ll spend whatever they are given, and that they’d like to be given the amount it cost to build Pittsburgh’s new arena as well as 40% for overruns.