It’s A Trap! Pt. 1

27 Jul

There has been plenty of coverage of last week’s meeting between City Council and the Katz Group (the Edmontonian has a great roundup of all the stories), but I want to share my notes from the meeting, as well as some additional thoughts. I’ve broken the post up into three parts, and will be posting the other two parts later today.

  • City of Edmonton (CoE) General Manager Simon Farbrother started off the meeting by presenting three options that the City can use to help finance the arena: a ticket surcharge, seat licensing, and a Community Revitalization Levy (CRL). I’ll leave it to others to explain the CRL and why it’s bad for taxpayers, but I do want to share a couple of thoughts on the seat licensing idea. As for the ticket surcharge, frankly, I’m completely in favour of it. It’s a user-pay system that I fully support. What I don’t understand is why collecting that ticket surcharge should be the City’s job. The Oilers should raise ticket prices, collect the charges, and pay off the arena themselves.

  • With the seat licensing idea, I think people in Edmonton should probably know a little bit more about what it is, and the possible change in atmosphere at Oilers hockey games that might result from its inception. Simply put, a personal seat license (PSL) means that the holder has the right to buy season tickets for the seats they have licensed. This means that rather than just paying for the season tickets, the customer also has to buy a license giving them permission to buy those season tickets. Basically it’s double-dinging the season ticket holder, and it will assuredly price some Oilers fans right out of their seats. PSLs are very popular in the NFL, where die-hard fans wait for years to get their hands on season tickets. In Green Bay, for example, where there is an estimated 40-year waiting period for season tickets, the Packers allow holders to pass on their PSL in their wills. Two NHL cities have PSLs at this time, Columbus and Toronto, and anyone wanting to know what a hockey fan with a PSL looks like should just watch the early game on Hockey Night in Canada. You don’t see many “Folks on the #8 bus” at Leafs games nowadays. It should also be noted that PSLs are often used to finance new stadiums, and that they often fail in that regard for the simple reason that they make the cost of attending games too prohibitive. More often than not, guess who is on the hook for covering the difference when that happens? Hint: the answer doesn’t rhyme with “boner.”
  • Daryl Katz began the Katz Group’s presentation, delivering a short, scripted statement outlining his vision for a new arena as well as offering a public apology to City Council for the way the Katz Group has handled this issue. Initially I thought this public mea culpa was the entire reason the Katz Group were there, as their statements seemed long on rhetoric and short on specifics. Turns out I was wrong.
  • Beginning a trend that would continue throughout the meeting, Katz declared that it was in fact former CoE General Manager Al Mauer who approached the Katz Group about the possibility of building a new downtown arena. He talked about the value of the Oilers in the community, as well as its hockey history, ignoring the fact that the legacy he spoke of happened in the arena he so desperately wants to abandon. Most importantly, Katz committed himself to the following: signing a location agreement to keep the Oilers in Edmonton (later established to be a location agreement to keep the Oilers in Edmonton if and only if they were playing in the new, publicly-funded downtown arena), a $100 million investment into the building of the new arena, as well as at least a $100 million investment into the surrounding development. Katz also tried to sell the idea that, because he had bought the team for $200 million dollars, the grand total of his investment in the city was actually $400 million dollars. Why he didn’t throw his house, his backyard hockey rink, the Capitals and all the Rexall stores in town into the equation and then tell Council they owed him an IOU is beyond me. Clearly we all owe him some arena cheddar for his charitable act of buying a private, for-profit business for himself.
  • The painfully awkward “Corporate Sizzle” presentation from Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) Vice-President Ted Tanner was a highlight for me. I’ve had “and this is my sister, Jerry Sizzler” in my head ever since. It was voiced by Morgan Freeman, priiicks!

4 Responses to “It’s A Trap! Pt. 1”

  1. chartleys July 28, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    A hundred! Yes a hundred! One hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree!!!!

    Thank you for attending these meetings and providing coverage. I’ve been enjoying the combination of you and Dellows takes on this issue. I just hope that these types of forums actually get in front of the eyes of reasonable people that may not have really considered exactly what they are trying to sell us here.


  1. Doubleplusungood « Why Downtown? - August 2, 2010

    […] point, the City looks to be in charge of collecting revenue from both the ticket surcharge and the personal seat licensing, with no explanation as to who will make up for any revenue shortcomings if those two plans don’t […]

  2. It’s A Trap, Pt. 3 « Why Downtown? - July 27, 2010

    […] my notes from the meeting, as well as some additional thoughts. Parts 1 and 2 of these notes are here and […]

  3. It’s A Trap! Pt. 2 « Why Downtown? - July 27, 2010

    […] There has been plenty of coverage of last week’s meeting between City Council and the Katz Group (the Edmontonian has a great roundup of all the stories), but I want to share my notes from the meeting, as well as some additional thoughts. Part 1 of those notes can be found here. […]

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