a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Saturday, 29 September 2012

09/29/12 Damage Control

Edmontonians breathed a sigh of relief when Daryl Katz issued a letter of apology about his recent visit to Seattle. The owner hasn't grown horns after all. Good on him.

The Seattle trip and subsequent statement from the Katz Group on the Oilers' site was a dangerous and calculated gambit by the owner, but it's not the first time an NHL owner has used this tactic. Mario Lemieux didn't officially state that threats of relocation were a bluff until August of 2008, a year and a half after the Pittsburgh arena deal was finalized. That Katz bowed to the backlash in Edmonton after less than a week shows that he understands his market and how counter-productive his recent actions were.

Some people are still understandably upset at the way this deal is playing out, but it's time to get some shovels in the ground sooner than later.

Katz may have attempted to use the public's attention to pressure Edmonton City Council, but that's no different than what he recently accused City Council of doing to him. Is it coincidence that this move from Katz came just a few days after what was apparently a leak from the city?

Of course, the responsibility of City Council is to the citizens, which is not the case for a business man; but it's not hard to see where the man is coming from.

Citizens of Edmonton have every right to be upset and to expect the best deal for their city, but the desire to make money from owning an NHL team does not make the Oilers' owner unique or malicious. That his team makes money is the only reason that the Oilers were never in any serious danger of moving out of town.

The trouble with the arena deal is that the two sides have different goals. A new arena will help Daryl Katz to make money, but Daryl Katz making money is not bad for the Oilers, Edmontonians, or the NHL. The City's investment in the project is about a revitalization of the downtown by using one of its greatest attractions. That cannot happen without a large investment of public money and resources. That it can be spurred on by a deal which will not increase current property taxes is a bonus.

There may be some opposition to the idea that the Oilers need a new arena, but what cannot be argued is that Edmonton's downtown needs an overhaul. That's going to happen with public money one way or another. Let's do it the right way.

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