Thursday, August 26, 2010

What do Major League Baseball's leaked documents mean for Edmonton?

A few days ago, Deadspin released leaked documents about the finances of the Florida Marlins, a team that held its home city hostage hostage and threatened to move until the city would give it a favourable deal for a new stadium, originally billed at $515, but now being billed as upwards of $600 million.

It turns out that the Marlins have turned a healthy profit over the last two seasons, and now the city of Miami is considering backing out of its original advertising deal as part of the new stadium.

So what does this mean? Well, consider all that Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz has been doing to secure a publicly-funded arena in downtown Edmonton for his own private profiteering. Katz has guaranteed $100 million for a new entertainment district if Edmonton fronts the rest of the cash.

Katz, like Marlins, and former Expos, owner Jeff Loria has pled the "small market" excuse, that the team cannot operate in a "significant economic and competitive disadvantage." His efforts to control Copps Coliseum in Hamilton are suspicious, since when the Rexall Place lease expires in 2014, Katz may pick up the team and move them to Hamilton, if Edmonton doesn't give them what he wants.

The point here is that the Florida Marlins were able to get what they wanted by flat-out lying about their financial situation, and now we're stuck in a similar situation where Darryl Katz is directing Edmonton City councillors based on emotions. Can Katz fund the entire project? Probably not, but why must it be so glitzy?

Copps is not all that much bigger than Rexall. Is Darryl Katz looking to hold two Canadian cities hostage to move his team to the city that will give him the best playground, or does he simply want a controlling interest of a building that will inevitably host the NHL a few years down the road?

It's far more fun to think that it's the former.

More reading:

The team values and revenues of the National Football League are over double those of the NHL, but the NHL plays in a larger average market.

Andy Grabia of the Battle of Alberta is keeping a blog, Why Downtown? which takes a critical look at Edmonton City Council and Darryl Katz' arena plans.

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