Edmonton council delays Coliseum demolition, asks for options to repurpose building

Edmonton’s storied Coliseum has dodged the wrecking ball for now, after city council agreed at a public hearing Thursday to explore options for the former home of the Edmonton Oilers.

'The time will come for demolition of the building,' Mayor Don Iveson says

The last hockey game at the Coliseum was in Dec. 2017 before the city closed the building. (Anna Desmarais/CBC)

Edmonton's storied Coliseum has dodged the wrecking ball for now, after city council agreed at a public hearing Thursday to explore options for the former home of the Edmonton Oilers. 

Council is asking city administration to prepare a report on the potential "adaptive" re-use of all buildings on the Exhibitions Lands site, including the Coliseum.

Councillors Moe Banga and Michael Walters voted against the motion, which asks administration to report back with the options by the first part of next year.

Although he voted in favour of the motion, Mayor Don Iveson isn't convinced that repurposing the building is realistic.

"We took considerable pains to evaluate a re-use of the facility for other purposes over the years," Iveson said after the meeting. 

Northlands looked at non-sport uses in 2016, he noted, and other studies on hockey rinks showed it would cost $120 to $150 million to turn it into a four-rink complex, while building a new one would cost $80-100 million.

"All of those studies came back — that it's a very, very expensive building to retrofit to any kind of new use."

Coun. Sarah Hamilton, who raised the motion, wanted to cover other existing buildings on the site, including the Expo Centre. 

She said regardless of the final decision on the Coliseum, the goal is to make sure the land isn't sitting idle for years. 

"I think maybe that's one of the worst things we could do at this point. What the community says is that they don't want vacant land for another 30 years."

Thursday, council also agreed to a set of bylaws on redeveloping the entire area into two transit-oriented villages with amenities and parks. 

    The city estimates the Exhibition Lands Planning framework will take 25 to 30 years to build.

    2013 agreement

    Council is also asking for legal advice on the city's ability to use the Coliseum for sports purposes. 

    A master agreement between the City and Edmonton Arena Corp. and Oilers Entertainment Group from 2013 states that the Coliseum building cannot house sports or entertainment events.

    It also prohibits the city from providing financial support or investment in the building. 

    Hamilton and other councillors stressed the need to analyze the agreement before the city can approve a new function for the Coliseum. 

    "I think having some extreme clarity on what the provisions are and their interpretation would support further conversations on this," Hamilton said. 

    Former mayor's pitch

    The motion comes two days after former mayor Stephen Mandel urged council to hold off on demolishing the building. 

    Mandel was mayor when the city signed the deal with the Oilers Entertainment Group to build Rogers Place downtown. 

    He attended the public hearing on Tuesday to suggest the Coliseum be turned into a sports facility for community and youth, focusing on basketball, volleyball, tennis and pickleball. 

    Iveson noted the need for court space in the city, but said the Expo Centre or other buildings could be used instead. 

    The mayor said with the pandemic and budgetary restraints, the city has other priorities. 

    "Frankly, there are more pressing issues for us than this," Iveson said. "The time will come for demolition of the building, which we previously concluded was an inevitability." 



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