Edmonton’s downtown arena is finally approved; get on board and help make it a success

City Council voted in favor of the arena today by a vote of 10-3, and while there are some things still outstanding (final approval of the CRL, approval of the regional grant) the project is most likely going to move ahead. This one feels final. We could argue about the deal forever, but it’s now done. I’m not happy about all the specifics, but I’m happy that we can move past this endless debate and get on to more important things.

Now that we know there’s going to be a shiny new arena downtown, it’s time to get on board and help to ensure that the project is as successful as possible. The hard work doesn’t stop with approval of the deal…it’s really just beginning.

There’s a lot of outstanding questions that need to be explored, including:

  • How does the deal impact the City of Edmonton’s debt and debt servicing levels?
  • What will the marketing/branding partnership with the Oilers actually look like?
  • Will the Gretzky statue get relocated?
  • What happens to the Baccarat Casino?
  • What is the impact of this decision on Rexall Place and Northlands? Can we sustain two large venues?
  • I’d rather see local restaurants and shops in the new arena than chains. How can we ensure the arena benefits local?
  • How does replacing MSI funding with additional CRL funding impact other downtown projects? How can we ensure those still move forward?
  • Where is the list of property developers ready to announce projects in the downtown area? What else do we need to do to ensure that surrounding development goes ahead?
  • What happens if the CRL doesn’t result in the lift we all hope for? What’s plan B, C, and D?
  • If the arena is the carrot to entice speculators to do something with their empty parking lots, taxation/policy changes are the stick. How can we get the stick implemented too?
  • How are Administration and Council going to learn from this to ensure future large projects follow a much smoother process, with more communication and transparency, and less ambiguity?
  • How will construction of the arena impact residents and businesses downtown, especially considering it’ll take place alongside a number of other large construction projects like the LRT?  How can we reduce that impact?
  • What else is the City of Edmonton prepared to do to support downtown’s ongoing revitalization? How soon can we get other related projects off the ground?

And my favorite:

  • When will Mayor Mandel announce he’s not running in the October election?

In his closing remarks, Councillor Henderson noted that the downtown arena “is not a magic wand”. For it to work, a lot of other things need to happen alongside and around the project. It’s a big step, but it’s just one step, in ensuring our downtown continues to grow. We need to make sure we take those other steps too.

5 thoughts on “Edmonton’s downtown arena is finally approved; get on board and help make it a success

  1. Couple of other questions

    What happens if the CRL is not approved by cabinet in June? How will we pay the 800 million dollar tab?
    Who will be the next mayor – iveson, Diotte or Sohi?

  2. Thanks for this post, and especially the subject line. I think it highlights an important point that gets lost in the pro-arena vs anti-arena debate, and even within the studies that show it has zero economic benefit. That is, the arena and its surrounding developments are not built in a vacuum. If we sit back and watch the arena district make or break itself, then it will fail. If we choose to be involved in its development, then it will surely succeed. The arena, the city, Daryl Katz, the Oilers; they can’t do it all themselves. We’ve all got to ensure that it becomes a vibrant place to be.

  3. I spent a considerable amount of time looking at the new arena plan a few months ago. I can’t say i am current with present plans, but I’d like to share some insights. First, the plan might be more successful if there are public, private places to go to in the area other than restaurants. shops, bars and cafes before and after a game. In the winter months many people do not want to eat or drink only, but might be interested in a variety of activities. I might suggest some conventional and unconventional places indoors to attract people. I can think of having indoor common areas that are publicly funded but still connected to bars, restaurants and the like. Since they might be constructed with security in mind, crime issues might be anticipated and dealt with through planning. For example, a roof garden that has monitoring by video and with restaurant business nearby. A museum that’s privately maintained and open when events are being held – such as a sports museum. An indoor sculpture park related to sports and is located near or in a private business. An indoor art and sculpture park that requires little monitoring, and so on. A video display projected against a building for free – such as a replay of a game after the real event. There might be an effort to expand what the city has on offer to make life a little more interesting and tolerable, especially in the winter months.

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