Bettman says Oilers' future bleak without new arena
Commissioner says Rexall Place is outdated
The commissioner of the National Hockey League is warning that time is running out to guarantee the Edmonton Oilers have a future in Alberta.
Gary Bettman told a news conference at Edmonton's Rexall Place on Saturday that he's already been through one campaign to keep the team in the city, and that he doesn't want to have to go through another one.
Bettman says Rexall Place is no longer adequate for the team's needs and the Oilers won't stay in the building.
Daryl Katz, who owns the team, is currently in negotiations with the city to build a new downtown arena.
The Katz group is committing $200 million US to the project, and is hoping to secure another $125 million from the city as well as $100 million from other levels of government.
The team's lease at Rexall ends in 2014.
"This building is obviously outdated, and for this city to continue to attract concerts, family shows conventions, having a new state of the art arena is important," Bettman said. "Equally as important is this team. The Edmonton Oilers has to have a new arena. There is not a question about it. They are not going to stay in this building."
Bob Black, executive vice-president of the Katz group, said in a written statement that the support from the NHL commissioner is appreciated.
"Time is the enemy and we need a deal with the city very soon in order to ensure we have a new building before our lease expires in 2014, to lock down pricing before the predicted escalation in labour and materials prices, and to capitalize on the numerous expressions of interest we have received from prospective tenants and partners for the district," Black said in the statement.
Edmonton city council has agreed to rezone an area picked out for a possible new downtown arena to replace Rexall Place.
On March 2, city council is expected to update the public on negotiations over who would manage the arena and where revenue would be directed.
Bettman hopes his comments will galvanize negotiations, helping public and private partners meet a tight deadline.
"You're going to need a new arena, it's that simple," he said. "It's not a threat by any means. It's a reality."