Edmonton getting closer to a new downtown arena

Rexall Place has been the home of the Oilers since 1974. (WinterE229 WinterforceMedia/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

@TimKolupan_

Efforts to build a new arena in downtown Edmonton has taken a step forward. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel gave a speech to city counselors about the importance of the new arena just before they voted 10-3 to continue working on the design.

The goal is to have the Oilers begin the 2015-16 season in the arena that will also help improve the downtown ara as a whole. One of the issues in getting what is being called the Edmonton Downton Arena is that the city plans on using taxpayers’ money to pay for it. But since the overall goal is improving downtown, they can spend part of the money going to city-wide renovations. Jack MacKinnon has Mayor Mandel’s reasoning that with so much money being spend around the city, adding a new arena with it is no problem.

In an impassioned speech just before city council voted 10-3 for consultants to continue design work on the proposed $450 million downtown arena, Mandel reminded them to focus not on the hockey arena, but on the overall downtown improvement.

He admonished them to get off the fetish with Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s wallet and think about the future of the city they are supposed to lead.

“I get frustrated when we keep talking about an arena,” said Mandel, who celebrates his umpty-second birthday today. “This is about downtown Edmonton and its development.

“We have spent $9 billion in this city; $150 million in recreation centres in the southeast end of the city; $140 in the southwest end of the city. We’re building a new library and recreation centre in the southwest of the city. We’re budgeting about $800 million for an LRT to the southwest.

“We’re budgeting for $1.5 billion for an LRT to the southeast end of the city. We are building bridges and roads and libraries.

“When does downtown get its fair share to develop it? That’s what I believe this is all about.”

There has been a $450 million budget set for the Edmonton Downtown Arena and even though plans are $35 million over that, the counsel has already found $17 million to cut according to the Canadian Press. They just need to be sure they can get the final part of the budget at they already know where the first $350 million is coming from.

The city is to pay $125 million towards the building, with another $125 million coming from a ticket tax and Katz putting up $100 million—leaving a shortfall of $100 million.

City officials are still trying to secure $100 million in funding from the province–an amount that was part of 17 conditions discussed when the arena agreement was made.

The Oilers currently play in Rexall Place, their home since 1974 when they were part of the World Hockey Association, which hold 16,839 people.

Their website Revitalized Downtown contains a great amount of information on this project. Their are trying to do something unique with their downtown area based of the promise and potential the city has to offer. From their vision on the website:

With a world-class development of this scale, we have the opportunity to revitalize our downtown and ignite a spark of social, cultural and economic energy in the heart of our city.

This is our time to do something big, something uniquely Albertan and something that will benefit all Edmontonians and make our city the best place to live, work and play.

We still have a long way to go, but we are very excited by the potential this holds for Edmonton, the Capital Region and all of northern Alberta.

For a city that loves hockey as much as Edmonton they deserve a better rink. But just remember, the Prudential Center was supposed to help clean up downtown Newark and it has done little to do so and caused a lot of headaches.

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