It’s A Trap! Pt. 2

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. Part 1 of those notes can be found here.

  • Despite statements from the Katz Group that they wanted all the revenues that Northlands currently receive, that they have lost money for seven of the last ten years, that they will not sign a new lease for the current Rexall Place when it expires in 2014, that taxes raised from the CRL would offset the costs of the arena, and that the arena is good for the city because it will spur downtown revitalization, they repeatedly refused to answer any questions from Council on the involvement of Northlands in any future discussions, refused to open their books to prove that they have lost money, denied that they were threatening to relocate the franchise, and refused to be put on the hook in the case of either the CRL failing or their promised development not occurring. Basically they came in, made a bunch of claims and demands, and then stammered and stonewalled when they were challenged, all the while pontificating on the value of partnership.
  • I have no doubt that the Katz Group made City Council even angrier than they already were with their antics on Wednesday, and right now I really can’t see an arena proposal getting more than three votes in its favour, but if the goal of the Katz Group is to put out their side of the story and hope no one really follows up on it, it just might work. Watching that meeting, and seeing the coverage that followed from it, it has become pretty clear that neither Council nor the mainstream media (MSM) has a very firm grasp on the intricacies of this issue. Aside from Councillor Don Iveson, I’m not convinced any of the councillors know the difference between Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) and non-Hockey Related Revenue (non-HRR), for example. Four or five of the Councillors’ votes are dependent on swinging a good deal for Northlands, which I don’t think is any better for taxpayers than swinging a good deal for Daryl Katz. I don’t remember Councillor Batty’s questions, that’s how inane and toothless they were. All I recall is her praising Katz and his family for their commitment to the city. And Mayor Mandel is so deep into this that he was actually answering his own questions to the Katz Group during the meeting. He might as well be consulting for them at this point.
  • As for the MSM, positive strides have been made. Outlets, reporters and editorialists have done a much better job at questioning the claims made by the Katz Group and other downtown arena advocates. But they are still reporting errors and making poor, discredited arguments. For example, the Canadian Press (and Hockey News) reported that Rexall is the second-oldest arena in the NHL, when a simple Wikipedia search would tell them that it’s actually the fourth oldest (it will become the 3rd oldest once the new arena goes up in Pittsburgh this year). It’s a falsehood that’s been repeated by the Katz Group—Patrick LaForge and Paul Marraccio both said it during the meeting with City Council—and is being reported without verification (I’ve seen it in the Edmonton Journal, as well). In his article following the meeting Graham Hicks wished that the City had “a financial adviser with oodles of arena expertise to separate fact from fiction,” and then in the next breath said, “seems the city has little choice but to accept the Katz Group’s arguments based on generalities, and get on with the challenge of financing an arena.” That’s like me not being sure if my sore leg is sore from a workout or from gangrene, and chopping it off before going to a doctor. And then there’s Mark Spector, who not only repeats the “second-oldest” error, but also claims that arena districts have revitalized downtowns in “city after city across this continent.” That’s a bold claim, one even the most ardent arena advocate in Edmonton hasn’t made. I don’t buy the arguments about Columbus, Los Angeles and San Diego, but even if I did, I could name a lot more cities where these projects haven’t worked than the three where they supposedly have. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati alone have four stadiums between them that have done very little to revitalize their cities. Spector’s a hockey reporter, a special breed of journalist that rarely bites the hand that feeds them stories, so my expectations weren’t that high in terms of objectivity. In fact, I wasn’t even that surprised that his claims about the healing powers of sports arenas, brain drain from the UoA, and Edmonton getting dangerously close to becoming Winnipeg all sounded awfully familiar. But his article, along with the other examples I gave, is just another example of how poorly traditional media normally cover these stories. This is an important issue, one that has tons of implications for this city, and it would be nice to see certain members of the Fourth Estate cut out the boosterism, do a little research, and be a bit more diligent in their jobs.
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4 Responses to “It’s A Trap! Pt. 2”

  1. Chad D July 27, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Excellent post.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Miami Vice « Why Downtown? - August 25, 2010

    […] there’s a NHL hockey club that claims to be losing money right here in Edmonton. It also refused requests from city councillors to open up its books, pointing to their status as a private company. It […]

  2. It’s A Trap, Pt. 3 « 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. Parts 1 and 2 of these notes are here and here. […]

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