The Edmonton Oilers will remain in the city after all. The city of Edmonton says they have agreed to an arena funding deal with the NHL franchise that ensures the Oilers will have a new arena by 2016 to replace the aging Rexall Place. The city is hoping the province will cover the remaining funding shortfall, and the government is considering using a lottery or the Wildrose digital keno proposal to generate the funds.
The negotiations between the Oilers and the city fell apart last November when Oilers owner Daryl Katz demanded an additional $6 million on top of the amount in negotiation. The city considered Katz’s demands an extortion that was unfair to taxpayers, shutting down the negotiations. The Oilers management said that if an agreement for a new arena couldn’t be reached before a February deadline, the team could relocate out of province.
Alberta’s Wildrose party previously suggested expanding digital keno games into hundreds of bars and pubs across the province in order to acquire the outstanding $107 million. Wildrose projections stipulated the net annual revenue from keno would be an approximate $50 million, and estimated half of that money could be used to bridge the arena funding shortfall. Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith says given the arena isn’t scheduled to open until 2016, there is plenty of time for the games to be installed and operated – all without raising provincial taxes to make up the difference.
While a deal has been reached between the Oilers and the city of Edmonton, that $107 million gap still remains and both sides have asked the provincial government to pick up the tab. The government has been adamant in its refusal to directly fund the arena, but members of the cabinet have suggested alternative ways to raise revenue. Lotteries have been used to support the Oilers in the past, and the government has yet to make any official comment on the Wildrose keno proposal.
The specifics still have to be ironed out, but Edmonton can safely say the Oilers will remain their team for at least another 35 years.