Last week we (the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee) released the results of the Arena Survey that asked for input on the future of Rexall Place. The survey launched on December 2 and was open until January 31. I’m thrilled that we were able to gather 26,019 responses in that time, surpassing our goal of 25,000. You can download the full survey results in PDF here, but I thought I’d highlight a few things in this post.
From the news release:
“The goal of the online public survey was to gauge the opinion of Edmontonians and to build consensus in the community about the future use of Rexall Place and the future of Northlands as an organization,” said Tim Reid, President & CEO, Northlands. “Throughout this process, we have determined that the best equation to finding a positive solution involves a combination of studying best practices, strong financial planning and ongoing consultation with those who will be using the facility most – our community. We are astonished by the level of engagement our community has shown with this process and are confident that the future plans of the site will continue to address Edmonton’s needs.”
It was important also to give Edmontonians an opportunity to share their memories and the experiences they have had at Rexall Place over the years. It was quite powerful to read through some of the reasons why this building is so important to so many!
We knew this was a bit of an emotional question, but we felt it was important to ask. What we heard loud and clear is that Rexall Place is considered important, particularly to Edmonton. Interestingly, “respondents from Edmonton were less likely to say Rexall is very important to Edmonton (39%) compared with respondents from beyond the Capital Region (53%).”
Can Edmonton support two arenas? Just less than half said yes. My hunch is that if the unsure group had enough information to make a decision, we’d come out pretty close to 50-50, which isn’t surprising (to me at least). Remember the new Rogers Place opens in 2016.
In terms of what we should do with Rexall Place, most people see a future for the building either as-is, or repurposed in some way. Some of the most commonly cited ideas for repurposing included converting it into a dedicated concert hall, making it a recreation or training centre, turning it into a market or shopping mall of some sort, or using the building for housing.
One of the other questions I found interesting was about transportation. Respondents could pick their top two methods of transportation for getting to Rexall Place, and driving came out on top followed by LRT. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised living in Alberta, but I did expect to see the percentage for LRT higher. As you might expect, this answer was correlated with income – the higher your income, the more likely you were to drive.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the survey!
Our committee continues to work on determining the best way forward for Rexall Place, for Northlands, and for Edmonton. We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to deliver a meaningful recommendation to the Northlands Board by April 15, and that’s what we’re working toward. The conversation is not about the past or what could have been, but really is about the future and what’s the best decision we can make now.
Next week we’ll be doing a deep dive into all of the information we have collected thus far. Our Exploration Subcommittee will also be travelling again soon, this time to Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa, to see some examples of buildings and situations in a Canadian context. This week we’re hosting some additional public engagement sessions that are being facilitated by RC Strategies.
My hope is that we’ll be able to narrow down the options we’re considering and take that back to the public before the end of March, most likely at some sort of town hall event, but possibly also via another online survey.