The new downtown area would replace Rexall Place. ((CBC))

The operator of Edmonton's Rexall Place has hired consultants to determine what the city needs for a new sports and entertainment facility, seven weeks after Oilers owner Daryl Katz hired his own consultant to help develop a new downtown arena.

American firm Convention, Sports and Leisure (CSL) International as well as Alberta consultant Spotlight Strategies will work with Northlands to "move Edmonton's arena solution forward," according to a news release from the non-profit organization on Monday.

"We are certainly partners within the current process that we do support the vision for a downtown arena within a broader downtown revitalization development," said Brian Leadbetter, Northlands' director of government and community relations.

"What we have done is that we've engaged partners that we believe will be integral to bringing broader perspectives as relates to that development and the potential for a new facility within the Edmonton market."

Northlands is a non-profit organization based in Edmonton that stages events like Capital Ex and the Canadian Finals Rodeo, in addition to operating Rexall Place. Its board of directors is made up of community members and Edmonton city council members, including Mayor Stephen Mandel.

Aim to replace aging Rexall Place

When Rexall Pharmacy billionaire Daryl Katz bought the Oilers in early 2008, he pledged $100 million towards construction of a new downtown arena to replace the aging Rexall Place, which is currently operated by Northlands.

On Dec. 3, the Katz Group announced it had hired AEG — an international firm that has developed sports and entertainment complexes in Los Angeles and London, England — to help develop an arena downtown, where the company has secured some land.

However, it isn't clear what role, if any, the Katz Group sees for Northlands in the new development. 

The firm hired by Northlands, CSL International, has worked on a market and feasibility study for the Barclays Centre, the proposed new home of the NBA's New Jersey Nets and pre-development studies for the Amway Centre, the Orlando Magic's new arena.

Leadbetter said the Northlands review will also look into what should happen with Rexall Place if the downtown area development proceeds.

In 2008, a task force appointed by Mandel recommended that the arena be funded by a mix of private and public funds, with the public portion possibly coming from a community revitalization levy.

But the idea of spending public funds on a new arena has proved to be controversial with many Edmonton residents, who don't want taxpayer money to be spent on a facility to house a privately owned NHL team.