Northlands Coliseum closure leaves businesses in limbo

Businesses near Northlands Coliseum say the city's decision to close Northlands Coliseum at the end of the year leaves them in limbo.

'We're all waiting to find out before anyone spends any money sprucing up. I'm a little frustrated'

Rick Shermack, general manager at Axe Music, says businesses near the Coliseum have been waiting on pins and needles for a decision on the arena for a couple of years. (CBC)

Businesses near Northlands Coliseum say the city's decision to close the arena at the end of the year leaves them in limbo.

"We've been waiting on pins and needles for a couple of years now," said Rick Shermack, general manager of Axe Music.

Businesses were hoping for some time to hear what the city has planned for the area, which also includes the nearby racetrack.  But news that the city will wait until after the election to decide what to do with the empty arena is troubling, Shermack said.

"We're all waiting to find out before anyone spends any money sprucing up," he said. "I'm a little frustrated."

Shermack said he would like to see the site developed into a multi-surface arena, whether it's a refurbished Coliseum or in a new building.

"It would be good for the area to see families and kids coming through here seven days a week," he said.  

He would also like to see some of the Northlands site redeveloped into high-end retail shopping and high rises.

"The area could use a facelift," he said.
Alyk Broadbent, assistant general manager at the Coliseum Inn, says the hotel has to do more to attract clients now that the arena is set to close. (CBC)

The area has been in decline since the Edmonton Oilers moved to play at the new Rogers Place facility downtown a year ago, said Alykzandrea Broadbent assistant geneneral manager at the Coliseum Inn across the street from the Coliseum. 

"We've seen a slow decline," Broadbent said. "They've being trying to get small events here and there, but it's not enough."

Broadbent said the hotel lost 10 nights a month when it would be fully booked with Oilers fans for games.

"Unfortunately for the Coliseum Inn, we're stuck here. We can't go closer to the activity, so we were hoping more activity would come here."

She said now the hotel has to "step up our game" and "reach out for different kinds of business" which may begin with a name change. 

Sheldon Oleksyn, executive director at the nearby not-for-profit Sports Central, says he's worried about what will replace the Coliseum if it's torn down. 

"It was my hope that, respecting the tradition of that building, that space would be maintained and converted into something hockey related," he said. "I'm afraid it's just going to be demolished."

Whatever will be in its place will affect whether the area will be revived, he said.  

"This area needs an anchor," he said. "With the Coliseum changing dramatically, we don't know what that means for the area."