For someone that has remained fairly non-vocal in his tenure as Edmonton Oilers owner, Daryl Katz of Katz Group is making a lot of noise lately and everyone in town, including our Edmonton Real Estate office, is taking notice.
If the threat of a season long NHL strike wasn’t enough, it seems that our Edmonton Oilers could potentially pack their hockey bags and head for the Pacific Northwest. Katz has been talking to the “right people” in Seattle about moving the team to the Emerald City, hanging the prospect over the head of Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and the rest of us if concessions aren’t made to accommodate the billionaire’s requests. Many see the threat to move as nothing more than a bluff to speed up commitment to the proposed half of a billion dollar arena that would be the home of the Oilers in two years. Bluff or not, the lease expires on the current arena in 24 months and Katz needs a decision quick or he may be gone, with our Oilers in tow. While some Edmonton residents are willing to throw in the towel out of frustration for everything that the NHL has thrown their way over the last few years many are concerned about the promised expansion to the downtown core of Edmonton, which rested heavily on the new arena as being the epicenter of it all. Almost 5 billion dollars’ worth of growth was proposed for downtown, expanding everything from retail and entertainment to educational facilities and downtown residential Edmonton real estate. Even with a hefty price tag, the overall feedback on the expansion initiative from the public was a positive one. Now many are wondering if Katz takes the puck and goes home, will downtown be left bare?
According to Mayor Stephen Mandel, everything will continue as planned. Even if there is a $450 million dollar hole left by an arena that never was, Mandel insists that the downtown core expansion and the Edmonton real estate growth that would come along with it will still happen. He insists that the city will continue its dominance in the retail industry and that the city will solidify its position as the entertainment and cultural hub of Canada. We like that optimism.
Aside from all of the back and forth negotiation and negotiation breakdowns, just as the NHL will pull itself out of strike talks and resume again at some point in the near future, be it this or the next season, one has to assume that sooner rather than later that the deal with Katz will go through just fine and we will see a new arena added to the skyline of Edmonton. In the unlikely event that it doesnot occur, we will still see a dramatic change in the landscape of Edmonton’s downtown core with exciting new retail, dining, arts & culture centers, and unprecedented downtown Edmonton condodevelopment. Edmonton residents will have plenty of places to enjoy both their necessity and disposable income. Perhaps they will choose to spend it away from the arena if the NHL, including Katz, can’t keep it together and remember who supports them in the first place.