The Oilers' long and arduous quest for a new arena to be built in downtown Edmonton took a huge step on Wednesday when the Edmonton City Council voted 10-3 in favor of advancing the new arena project and entering into an agreement with Oilers owner Daryl Katz.
"This has not been easy, but today we have an absolute deal that will go ahead and I want to thank everyone for their work," Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel said. "That's what the Oilers are about. It's a special entity for our city, and this deal secures them here for 35 years."
Katz has been working with the city for a long time trying to secure a new home for the team since Rexall Place is one of the oldest arenas in the league. The hangups have come in trying to decide how much of the arena would be publically financed vs. privately financed by Katz.
The disagreements between the two had broken down so much that a few months ago the talks appeared to break off and Katz made a threat of relocation, visiting Seattle and touring the facilities, even if it was completely transparent and the flimsiest threat you've ever seen. In a way, the weak threat seemed to be enough to get the sides back together again as Katz's bluff was called.
Now it seems that the way is paved for the new arena, assuming the province of Alberta steps in to help finish the financing, something that Mandel is "absolutely confident" won't be an issue.
There was never any real threat that the Oilers were going to leave town. Like all Canadian cities with hockey teams, the support can't be better -- especially in a market like Edmonton, where there is a rich tradition going back to the Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier days.
Mark Spector of Sportsnet says the hope now is to break ground on the new arena in August and have it open by 2016. If all goes according to plan, the new arena would come right at the start of the next dynasty in Oilers hockey.