Mayor Stephen Mandel will soon announce a blue-ribbon committee to examine building a $400-million arena in downtown Edmonton.

The downtown arena, an idea talked about in Edmonton for years, would be built on the site of the downtown post office just north of city hall.

Mandel will name a panel next week that will be charged with examining the details, such as figuring out how to pay for the arena.

Bringing thousands of fans attending everything from hockey to rock concerts into the downtown would fill restaurants and bars, said Jim Taylor, executive director of the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton.

"Downtown revitalization has happened. The cake is baked, actually, so now it is all icing. But this would be really thick frosting on the cake," he said.

Coun.Bryan Anderson, whosits on the board ofNorthlands, which owns the current arena,Rexall Place, said the non-profit organization is almost sure to be involved in any new venture.

"Northlands has allof the expertise in terms of the multiplicity of events at a venuelike Rexall Place," he said.

Third-oldest NHL arena

Built in 1974, Rexall Place is the oldest Canadian home ice arena in the NHL and the third-oldest in the league, behind Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh and the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, home to the New York Islanders.

Aconsultant's report released in February concluded that refurbishing Rexall Place could cost as much as $250 million, a price tag Northlandshoped would launch a debate over whether to build a new NHL arena in Edmonton.

Winnipeg opened a controversialdowntown arena in 2004,the MTS Centre, on Portage Avenue.

Stephano Grande, who speaks for Winnipeg's Downtown Business Improvement Zone, said the area has since become more vibrant and profitable with fewer vacant storefronts.

"Housing prices have increased in our downtown, rental vacancy rates have decreased. Not all attributed to the MTS Centre, but definitely the confidence thing is something the MTS Centre spurred."