(SNN) - It appears the City of Edmonton, home to the once-storied, but now struggling, Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, may be a few shekels light of the enormous, seemingly constantly shifting, fund raising target. By most accounts, the city is a wee bit short, like, in the $50 million dollar neighborhood short. This is a neighborhood few Edmontonians can afford to live in, unlike Oilers owner, Darryl Katz, who has the people skills of a drill sergeant, and lives the good life, mostly in Vancouver.
Who can blame the anti-arena crowd? Have you driven the roads in Edmonton lately? The frost heaves from the tough freeze/thaw cycle this winter/spring endured by the city has made the asphalt erupt like a pubescent teenagers face. The numerous potholes are almost as threatening to cyclists as they are to a motorist’s suspension systems in their vehicles. The only people happy in the city are those companies that do wheel alignments, yet the city seems hell bent for leather on blowing $100 million of provincial infrastructure money to build the new arena.
Let’s be clear on what is at stake. They are going to use taxpayer dollars to build a facility that will almost solely be used by those wealthy enough to pay thousands of dollars for season tickets or hundreds of dollars to see a concert, rodeo or monster truck show. The people that can afford to use this venue are already in a better financial position than many, if they can toss away that much of their disposable income on such entertainments. In other words, this is a yet another plum for the rich on the backs of the not-so-rich.
So why would a seemingly intelligent, yet perennially cash-strapped municipality build an edifice and give away the profitable parts to a billionaire so he can let multi-millionaire players play in it? Many other NHL arenas have been built with no public money whatsoever. The Oilers are in the top five money-making teams in the league. Is Katz really going to pull out of a money mill? Not likely.
The situation is analogous to a homeowner who has a huge maintenance bill; say, a new shingle job is required since the roof leaks worse than the Oiler’s goaltending. Instead of shelling out the three or four thousand bucks it costs to preserve the integrity of his home, he blows it on something stupid; say, Oiler’s seasons tickets. This is the madness the burghers of Edmonton are suffering from.
What ever mania has overtaken Edmonton’s municipal council, I sincerely hope they wake up to the fact they have been manipulated. They need to remember the old adage about buying a car from a slippery vehicle salesman, “Always be prepared to walk away.”
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