City council, Hockey Canada moving ahead with plan to repurpose Coliseum

The City of Edmonton is moving ahead with plans to repurpose the old Northlands Coliseum into a Hockey Centre of Excellence, with a report to come back to councillors for discussion on May 30.

McKeen argues for hockey organization to move headquarters to Edmonton from Calgary

A report on the next steps in repurposing the old Northlands Coliseum will come before city councillors May 30. (CBC)

The City of Edmonton is moving ahead with plans to repurpose the old Northlands Coliseum into a Hockey Centre of Excellence.

The proposal is to partner with Hockey Canada to put in four sheets of ice, a running track, dryland training area, classrooms and administrative space.

After looking at the repurposing plan on Tuesday, council voted to have city staff develop a memorandum of understanding with Hockey Canada that will come back to council May 30.

Hockey Canada is the national governing body for hockey in Canada.

"I think we are faced with a very, very unique set of circumstances with respect to the Coliseum and the opportunities that might exist there," Tom Renney, president and CEO of Hockey Canada told councillors Tuesday.

"This is one of the true hotbeds for hockey in the country." 

Renney, a former head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, described the repurposing as an "iconic opportunity."

Mayor Don Iveson said some people may see nostalgia driving the decision. But he said the location is a big factor.

The city wants to make sure the Coliseum remains an activity hub in an area of the city that has benefited from its events for 40 years. 

The proposal is not only for hockey to be played in a repurposed arena but for other sports to be played as well, Renney told councillors. He said boards could be placed over the ice surface to allow for indoor soccer or lacrosse.
This is an "iconic opportunity," Hockey Canada president Tom Renney told Edmonton city council Tuesday. (Lydia Neufeld)

Creating a centre of excellence does not necessarily mean Hockey Canada would move its headquarters from Calgary to Edmonton, Renney said.

However, Coun. Scott McKeen would like to see the city "twist arms pretty hard" to make that happen.

"If the city is going to be investing that kind of money into it, then I think we should be pressuring Hockey Canada to relocate in Edmonton," McKeen said.

"Then we would see some further gains in branding reputation, and tournaments, and media coverage."

Before the plan can move forward it needs the approval of the Katz Group as part of the deal the city signed on the new downtown Rogers Arena. That doesn't appear to be a roadblock.

"We have had preliminary discussions with the Katz Group relative to this concept and got preliminary interest," city manager Linda Cochrane told councillors.

City staff will now work to firm up the approval from the Katz Group. Information on that will come back to councillors May 30 with the memorandum of understanding.