NHL Boss Pitches Edmonton Arena

Edmonton, Alberta, needs a new arena if it wants to remain competitive in not only professional sports but in attracting concerts, family shows, conventions and other events, National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said during a recent hockey game.

“It’s obviously essential that the Oilers have a new arena,” Bettman told the Edmonton Journal between periods of the Oilers/Atlanta Thrashers game at Rexall Place Feb. 19. “And actually it’s essential that the City of Edmonton have a new arena, as well,” he said before adding the Oilers are “not going to stay in this building.”

Edmonton officials are to report to the city council March 2 on several issues, one of which is whether the council is prepared to approve a funding formula for a new $450 million arena, according to the paper.

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz has pledged $100 million to help construct an arena and another $100 million for an adjacent office, commercial and retail development.

A ticket tax to contribute $125 million could be on the table as well as a request for provincial approval for a Community Revitalization Levy that could raise as much as $160 million.

The Oilers’ current lease with Rexall Place ends in 2014, and the team has insisted it will not play there once it expires.

“[Rexall Place] is not comparable to what our teams typically play in anymore,” Bettman told the Journal. “The revenue streams are not comparable to what goes on in new arenas.

“This building, by any standard, is antiquated and outdated,” he continued. “For a team to be competitive across the board, including its revenue streams, it needs to be in a competitive arena, and this one isn’t.”

Rexall Place, formerly the Northlands Coliseum, was the site of the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty years including five Stanley Cups and superstars like Wayne Gretzy and Mark Messier.

Adding to the pressure for a new arena is word that Quebec City is considering building a new venue to replace Le Colisee Pepsi, which housed the Quebec Nordiques NHL franchise before it bolted to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995.