Excitement builds over arena report

A long-awaited report on a new arena to replace Edmonton's aging Rexall Place will be released Tuesday.

A long-awaited report on a new arena to replace Edmonton's aging Rexall Place will be released Tuesday.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel appointed a panel last April to study whether to renovate the current arena, home to the Edmonton Oilers, or build a new one, likely in the downtown core.

"I got to tell you it's hard to believe there is so much excitement about a report," Mandel said Monday. But the mayor wouldn't provide any hint of what the report recommends.

That is up to Lyle Best, the chair of the task force, to reveal, Mandel said, referring to a news conference set for 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Members of city council will be briefed on the recommendations beforehand, he added.

Interest in the issue is so strong that a speech by Mandel to Edmonton's Downtown Business Association, scheduled for Tuesday at noon, has attracted 350 people, said chair John Frederickson.

"This is really a catalyst to a redevelopment of a district rather than an arena," Frederickson said.

"The arena is part of an entertainment complex that then leads to redevelopment and revitalization of whatever section of downtown it ends up in," he said, adding that a proposed arena would likely include hotels and retail, commercial and residential units.

Katz bid gave push to arena proposal

The push for a new arena was given a big boost in February when the Edmonton Investors Group, which owns the Oilers, accepted a bid by billionaire Daryl Katz to purchase the team for $200 million.

A downtown arena would likely be built on the site of the downtown post office just north of city hall, at a cost estimated to be in the $400-million range. Katz has promised to invest $100 million in a new downtown arena if the NHL gives its blessing to his takeover of the team. The mayor has been adamant that city taxpayers won't have to pick up the remainder of the tab.

Rexall Place, built in 1974, is the oldest Canadian 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.

A consultant's report released in February concluded that refurbishing it could cost as much as $250 million.