Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scamming Cities #1

Edmonton Oiler owner Daryl Katz is working on shaking down the good residents in the City of Champions out there in Wildrose country in order to get support (i.e., dollars) for a new arena for his hockey team.
Last summer I wrote that Katz was playing footsie with City of Hamilton, dangling the possibility of moving the Oilers to the oft rejected/NHL deprived Ambitious City.

That didn’t work to extract more money out of either the City of Edmonton or the Province of Alberta.

So, still $100 million light to replace the aging (?) thirty nine year old Northlands Coliseum, Katz has a new idea.
Why not build the arena on the nearby Enoch Cree Reserve?

It is only 3 km west of Edmonton and contains a 4 ½ star 260 room Marriott hotel where Randy Travis, Joan Rivers, Conan O’Brien and Brent Butt have performed. There is also  a casino with over 1,000 slot machines, a 18 hole golf course and 2 NHL size ice surfaces,  part of a “favoured practice facility for the Oilers.”   
New Chief Ron Morin, who heads the community of 2075, is interested according to the Edmonton Sun and “prepared to look at all kinds of options.”

Meanwhile a worried Edmonton Councillor Don Iveson told the Sun that the Enoch location is a “tax haven since economic activity on the reserve “may not be subject to provincial taxation.”  
The Oilers' season doesn’t begin until October 8thso this is giving Edmonton hockey fans something to talk about in the summer doldrum period.

I’m thinking that it is a good bet that the pro-free enterprise/anti-tax Conservative government of outgoing Premier Ed Stelmach will come up with the necessary $100 million.  The Municipal Sustainability Funds seems a likely source.  The fact that the fund’s purpose - assisting municipalities in capacity building – doesn’t seem to justify support for a private special interest group like Katz’s hockey team - likely won’t be an issue at the end of the day.
Oh, did I mention that the city has already committed $225 million?

A website ( does a great job of documenting how North American pro sport franchises are working on similar shakedowns just about every day of the year.