Will Rexall Place be repurposed or torn down?

A new report about the future of Rexall Place will recommend the aging arena be renovated to host “mid-sized events” or demolished if Northlands cannot find partners willing to redevelop the building.

'It cannot be left derelict," says Mayor Don Iveson

Northlands board will now decide future of arena. (CBC)

A new report about the future of Rexall Place will recommend the aging arena be repurposed to host "mid-sized events" or demolished if Northlands cannot find partners willing to redevelop the building.

The two recommendations come from a 224 page report released Wednesday by a committee that studied possible options for the arena that has been home to the Edmonton Oilers since the 1970's.

For the first scenario to be successful, the report said, Northlands would have to collaborate with the city and the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) in developing a non-compete agreement with the new Rogers Place arena, set to open downtown in 2016.

Under that scenario, Rexall Place would act as "a secondary and complementary venue," the report said.

CEO Tim Reid said Northlands will be face financial challenges by 2017 if nothing is done to mitigate the impact of the new arena of Rexall Place.

"Northlands must involve others," he said before the board of directors at City Hall Wednesday.

Options would include the development of recreational facilities, an agricultural education centre, or repurposing the arena to support the trade, consumer, conference and convention business.

When asked about working with Northlands as a complementary venue, Bob Nicholson, vice-chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, said filling seats in the downtown arena district is his organization's first priority. (CBC)
However Bob Nicholson, the vice-chair of OEG, said his organization's priority is filling up the downtown arena district.

"Any type of entertainment, any type of music, any type of sport; if it's something this city wants we are certainly going to be in the process of trying to get it downtown," Nicholson said.

Northlands' position is especially difficult, as the city's agreement with the Oilers prevents the city from spending any capital money on Rexall, unless it is used to repurpose the building.

Rexall could come down

If Northlands cannot partner with OEG or another organization, the committee recommends demolishing Rexall Place and developing the land.

If that happens, the report suggested new development "would complement the surrounding neighbourhood, stimulate development growth and support revenue opportunities for Northlands."

For that scenario to work, zoning for the land would have to be revised.

Mayor Don Iveson said it's sad to think of the arena being torn down, but it will be necessary if the board cannot find a use for it.

"It cannot be boarded up. It cannot be derelict," Iveson said.

The arena on 118th Avenue opened in 1974 as the Northlands Coliseum. Over the next four decades it was known as the Edmonton Coliseum, Skyreach Centre and Rexall Place.

The arena is the single largest profit center for Northlands generating an average of $7.5 million in annual earnings over the last three years.

In 2014, the arena hosted 49 NHL games, 46 WHL games, 36 concerts and the six-day Canadian Finals Rodeo, among other events.

A Northlands subcommittee researched a number of cities throughout North America where new arenas have replaced older ones in recent years.

The committee found that 17 cities with NHL franchises have built new arenas since 1994.

Eleven of those old arenas were demolished. Only three were eventually redeveloped for other uses.

The report from the 17-member arena strategy committee is now in the hands of the Northlands board of directors.

That board will ultimately decide whether the arena is repurposed or torn down.


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