With a new downtown arena, what will happen to Rexall Place?
It’s a question that has been asked many times over the last few years, and one which remains unanswered. But that could finally change next spring.
On Halloween, Northlands publicly announced the formation of its Arena Strategy Committee. Comprised of 17 members of the community, the committee is tasked with delivering a recommendation on the future of Rexall Place to the Northlands board by April 15, 2015. Here’s what Northlands’ new President & CEO Tim Reid had to say about the news:
“The opening of Rogers Place will change the competitive market place for Rexall Place. We need a short and long-term plan that meets Northlands’ objectives while identifying and assessing viable opportunities for the future use of Rexall Place and its site.”
That’s a very different message than the one delivered in March 2008 when then-Northlands-board-chair Jerry Bouma ruled out the possibility of keeping Rexall Place open if a new arena was built. “We can’t have two competing large-scale facilities,” he said at the time. A few years later, City Manager Simon Farbrother also suggested that Edmonton cannot sustain two arenas. Most people I have talked to feel the same way.
We have seen a similar scenario play out before. Eight years after Northlands Coliseum opened in 1974, the Edmonton Gardens was demolished. The situation is different today, of course – Rexall Place is one of the busiest arenas in the world whereas the Gardens was condemned at one point – but you can’t help but wonder, is that the fate of Rexall Place too?
Northlands, it seems, isn’t as sure as it once was. And it has struck this committee to help remove that uncertainty.
Rexall Place Planet by Kurt Bauschardt
Here are the committee members, with the “area of expertise” they represent in brackets (copied from the press release for posterity):
- Mrs. Laura Gadowsky, Chair, Northlands Board of Directors (who is an ex officio member of all committees)
- Mr. Harold Kingston, First Vice Chair, Northlands Board of Directors
- Mr. Burke Perry, Second Vice Chair, Northlands Board of Directors
- Mr. Andrew Ross, Arena Strategy Committee Chair, Northlands Board of Directors
- Mr. Gerry Yuen, Northlands Board of Governors
- Mayor Don Iveson, City of Edmonton
- Mr. Dave Quest, MLA, Government of Alberta
- Mr. Tom Ruth, President & CEO, Edmonton Airports (Industry and Commerce)
- Mr. Dave Mowat, President & CEO, ATB Financial (Audit and Finance)
- Mr. Brad Ferguson, President & CEO, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (Economic Development)
- Ms. Jerri Cairns, Vice Chair, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (Industry and Commerce)
- Mr. Ashif Mawji, Founder & CEO, NPO Zero (Audit and Finance)
- Mr. Len Rhodes, President & CEO, Edmonton Eskimos Football Club (Sports and Entertainment)
- Mr. Stephen Petasky, President & Founder, Luxus Group (Industry and Commerce)
- Mr. Ray Block, Vice President of Administration and CFO, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (Arts, Culture and Education)
- Mr. Mack D. Male, Blogger of MasterMaq’s Blog and software developer/entrepreneur (Youth and Community Groups)
- Ms. Geraldine Bidulock, Private Business Owner (Rural)
When I offered my help to Tim in his new role as President & CEO of Northlands, I had no idea that I would hear from him so soon. I am honored to have been asked to work with such a diverse and impressive group of community leaders. I know this is a big commitment, and I’m looking forward to making a big contribution.
The committee will further split into at least two subcommittees: one focused on examining other buildings in other cities, and one focused on public engagement. I will be very active on the public engagement side of things. We’ll be working with RC Strategies on that. Our committee will work to gather information and to encourage dialogue.
I am approaching this challenge with an open mind. As a committee, we don’t have an outcome in mind. Instead, we want to understand the range of possible outcomes, evaluate the pros and cons of each, gather input from the public on them, and ultimately try to come to some sort of decision about which is the best one for Edmonton.
So what happens when we’ve come to a decision? Our committee will deliver a recommendation to the Northlands board of directors in early April. The plan is for that recommendation to be made public on April 15. What happens next? We’re not sure. The board could adopt the recommendation, they could reject it, or they could let it sit. Northlands will hold its AGM at the end of April, so potentially one third of the board membership could be changing. The current board may simply decide to let the new board deal with our recommendation. We’ll have to see.
Stay tuned for details on the public consultation opportunities we’ll be facilitating. There will be opportunities to share your thoughts on the future of Rexall Place both in person and online. Of course, I want to hear from you directly and as soon as possible – feel free to leave a comment below or to get in touch. I’ll do my best to blog updates here as appropriate. It’s going to be an interesting few months.