Photo courtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons

Fear Mongering And A Rebuttal To The Katz Group

Another day, another PR nightmare.

On Monday evening, the Edmonton Oilers’ website issued a statement that is attributed to Bob Black, Executive Vice President, Edmonton Arena Corporation, Katz Group.

Like the NHL’s letter to the fans, I’ll do a little carving up of Mr. Black’s issue to Oilers fans.  Think of it as an especially angry call-and-response session. Catharsis is awesome.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then we’ll begin.

I can confirm that Daryl Katz, Patrick LaForge, Kevin Lowe and others from the Oilers leadership group are in Seattle for meetings and to attend the Seahawks game.

Oh man, what a disastrous game that was. Well, not so much if you’re a Seahawks fan.  Say, what might you be doing in Seattle on this fine Monday night?

We remain committed to working with City Administration to achieve a deal commensurate with what Winnipeg and Pittsburgh have done to sustain the NHL in those small markets. If we can achieve such a deal, the Oilers will remain in Edmonton and we can get on with the important work of developing the new arena and investing in the continued revitalization of Edmonton’s downtown core.

Oh, it’s this again.  In case you’re just joining us, Katz and crew took the trip to Seattle to put fear into Oilers fans about relocation.

Mr. Black, I understand you’re likely just the lip service of this press release, but I didn’t think I would be required to put on my boots so early in your conversation.  The Katz Group (and the rest of the NHL watching world) are fully aware that they’ve got themselves a sweetheart deal going for them right now.  You’ve got a team that’s currently making money hand over fist, you’ve got a season ticket waiting list that’s longer than the Great Wall of China, and you consistently sell out every home game even though the product has been substandard since 2006.

Your visit to Seattle is hollow, Mr. Katz.  Everybody and their mother knows that you’re a savvy, smart guy.  There’s no way you’re going to walk away from (a conservative estimate of) $250M+  and a guaranteed sellout every night in favour of a market that’s unproven. You’ve  said that you’ll kick in $100M back in 2011, so that’s three hundred and fifty million dollars to build this damn arena.

$350,000,000.

That’s a pretty good chunk of change, don’t you think?  Hell, when Pittsburgh built the Consol Center, it only cost them a cool $321M in 2010.  You’re going to sit here and say “World Class” over and over until you get another $100M?

But in reality, you’re not serious about moving the team.  You just want another handful (okay, a pretty big handful) of dollars, and I understand this.  You’re a successful businessman, and you didn’t become that way by making bad deals.  But, you’ve got some serious cojones by using Seattle as leverage.

The Katz Group readies for another press release. Photo courtesy http://yabe.chudov.com/

Mr. Katz, using Seattle is not a smart business deal.  Flap your wings a little bit harder sir, because your fire isn’t going to light on this campsite.  You’re going all-in on a 7-5 off suit.  There’s no guarantee of ticket revenue, and I’ll go on and say that there’s less than zero percent chance that fans will support a team in Seattle that’s been perpetually bad as long as the Oilers have been over the past six years.

You are in this venture to make money, aren’t you?  You’re betting a 2 against an 8.  That’s dumb.

You’re a smart guy, and you know that Seattle isn’t half the market that Edmonton is.  Sadly, you choose to try and drive fear into the minds of some of the sport’s greatest fans by parading the colour guard around Washington state.  Whatever, guy.

Where were we?

Nonetheless, and as the City of Edmonton is aware, the Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time. After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers’ lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise.

“Prudent”? You keep using that word.

We are extremely grateful to Oilers’ fans for their patience and loyalty as we work through this process towards what we sincerely hope will be a long and successful future for the Oilers in Edmonton. We have no further comment on the status of our discussions with other markets at this time.”

Hey, as long as they keep buying tickets and merchandise, it’s not like it’s your job to care more than you absolutely must.  I understand that too. As long as the product keeps selling, it’s not like you have to worry about anything.  But I implore you to try and sell a product like the one you’ve been selling in Edmonton when you’re in Seattle.  Let me know how that goes.

And please, Mr. Katz.  Can you not try to sell the fans on any more flimsy doubt?  We’re all stocked up on horse manure for the foreseeable future.  Sell it to someone who’s ready to listen. You’ve got $350M and a riled up fan base.  Can you call it a draw and build the damn arena so that we can get to see some of the fruits of the last six non-playoff years while we’re all still alive?

Thanks for your time.  I hope you enjoyed the football game with Patrick Laforge, Kevin Lowe and Gretz.

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