Report: Edmonton Oilers, City Council Agree on $601 Million Arena Project

Eric McKelvieSenior Writer IJanuary 24, 2013

Daryl Katz, owner of the Edmonton Oilers.
Daryl Katz, owner of the Edmonton Oilers.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The city of Edmonton and Oilers fans everywhere have reason to be excited. 

The Oilers reached an agreement with Edmonton city council Wednesday that will see a new arena built in downtown Edmonton, according to TSN.ca. 

Construction will begin this fall, and the Oilers should be playing in the 18,559-seat arena by 2016. The total cost of the project will be $601 million. 

The city will be paying $219 million, the Oilers will be chipping in $143 million and a tax on tickets will account for another $125 million. The tax won’t exceed seven percent of the cost of a ticket, according to TSN. The two sides are hoping to secure the majority of the remaining $114 million from the provincial government and the rest from the federal government. 

The arena deal was years in the making, and there were certainly some significant bumps along the way. 

Perhaps the most dramatic point in the process was when Oilers owner Daryl Katz, along with team president Patrick Laforge and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, paid a visit to Seattle. There has been much speculation that Seattle could be a destination for an NHL team, should one relocate. 

This caused an outcry of criticism from Oilers fans, which led to Katz apologizing for the trip in an open letter via full-page newspaper ads. 

In mid-October, city council walked away from a potential deal because of Katz’s last-minute changes, which included a demand for an additional $6 million a year from taxpayers. 

There had been little news regarding the new arena in the few months leading up to Wednesday’s announcement.

Both Katz and city council made concessions in order to reach an agreement. Katz gave up on his demand for an extra $6 million per year, as well as his bid for city staff to move into a purpose-built office building next to the arena. Meanwhile, city council agreed that taxpayers would pay the bill on future repairs and renovations. 

Katz will lease the arena from the city (who will build and own it) for $6 million a year.   

The fact that a deal was reached is great news for Edmonton, Oilers fans and Canadian hockey fans in general. 

There was a point in the mid-1990s when it appeared as though the Oilers and Calgary Flames could go the way of the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques and move south. The economy, specifically the Canadian dollar, was making it tough to run a financially successful franchise in the north. 

This new deal assures fans that the Oilers will remain in Edmonton for a number of decades. It also sets the stage for a new arena deal in Calgary and possibly for other city/team agreements should Canada ever become the home for more NHL franchises. 

The Oilers' current home, Rexall Place, opened in 1974 and is the third-oldest arena in the NHL. The Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary isn’t far behind in fifth, having been built in 1983.

As for Edmonton’s product on the ice, it hasn't had consistent success since the 1980s. It was during this time that the Oilers won five Stanley Cups, forming the last true dynasty in the NHL. 

With that being said, fans have plenty to be excited about in the near future, with Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz leading the Oilers into a new era.