Things got ugly last month in Daryl Katz's negotiations with the city of Edmonton on a new arena deal for the Oilers. On Monday, September 24th, a frustrated Mayor Stephen Mandel set a deadline of October 17th for the Katz Group and the city to come to an agreement. Later that same day, the Katz Group was in Seattle, touring Key Arena, watching a little football and, you know, tacitly threatening to move if their demands weren't met.
It would appear Mandel was not. Today is October 17th, there is no deal, and Edmonton City Council has voted unanimously to cease negotiations with Katz immediately.
It's possible Mandel was bluffing originally. Canadian cities don't tend to be this dismissive with their NHL franchises. In fact, the city's urgency to get Katz to appear in person on Tuesday, on the eve of the deadline, and spell out his demands suggests they really didn't want to go through with this. But, instead of appearing as requested, Katz refused, then released a letter to the media effectively saying the mayor sucked at mayoring.
We and the city can't even agree on basic assumptions relating to the financial aspects of operating a new arena.
Perhaps with more time and political leadership this deal can still be saved. But as it stands we remain far apart both on substance and process.
Mayor Mandel, this is an opportunity for Edmonton to be bold and forward-looking, and it warrants your support and leadership.
Said Stephen Mandel, in the understatement of the year, "Negotiations are not in good shape."
No kidding. When, the day before a negotiation deadline, the other side is writing nasty letters insulting your leadership, "not in good shape" is probably a light characterization of the state of things.
24 hours later, it's also an out-of-date characterization.
City Council made no secret of the role the letter played in their decision to kill the deal. From the Edmonton Sun:
The first point of the three part motion reads "As a result of Mr. Katz's letter and unwillingness to have an open discussion with council and the frustration of the interim design agreement, all negotiations and ongoing city work related to the Oct. 26, 2011, framework be ceased immediately."
Yeah. They didn't like your letter, bro.
Now, don't panic, Edmontonians. This doesn't mean the rise of the Seattle Oilers. Or the Kansas City Oilers. It simply means that negotiations on this deal are done. The city can still start up negotiations on a new deal, and there are 24 months remaining until the lease on Rexall Arena expires. There is time and, provided someone hides Daryl Katz's quill and parchment paper, there is still hope.