Today the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee released its final report which includes recommendations on the future of Rexall Place for the consideration of the Northlands Board of Directors. This brings our six month process to an end and I think provides the Board with some actionable, useful insight and analysis regarding what to do with Rexall Place. This is not the end of the road, but I think it is a major step toward resolving this important challenge for our city.
We are making two recommendations. Our primary recommendation is as follows:
“The NASC has highlighted that the current scenario surrounding a conflict oriented and competitive model specific to major sports and entertainment venues within the City of Edmonton has stalled progress; there is a need for a new approach. It is recommended that the Northlands Board of Directors consider a collaborative solution for the Northlands arena (Rexall Place) and define this possibility as two party or three party potential outcomes.”
Basically, if there’s a way to find a collaborative model that works, do so. The two party outcome would be a way for Northlands and the Oilers to work together to use Rexall Place in a way that is complementary to Rogers Place. The three party outcome would be an agreement between Northlands, the City of Edmonton, and the Oilers to find an alternative use for the building.
Fortunately, I think significant progress has been made on building the relationships necessary for a collaborative model to work. Here’s what Committee Chair Andrew Ross wrote in his summary (which you’ll find in the report):
“The NASC worked collaboratively and while we did not always agree we respectfully debated to find the right solutions; this final report has achieved consensus of the group. An unintended outcome developed throughout this process is the significant progress made to repair previously strained relationships between members of the Northlands Board of Directors and key stakeholders at the City of Edmonton and the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG). Special thanks goes to Tim Reid, President and Chief Executive Officer of Northlands; Bob Nicholson, Vice Chairman of the OEG; Simon Farbrother, City Manager; and Mayor Don Iveson who have been willing to take a forward looking approach in the best interest of our city and the sustainability of the Northlands organization.”
If that collaborative approach does not work out, then we feel that the worst thing we could do is nothing. And so our secondary recommendation is vigorous redevelopment:
“If a redevelopment strategy is implemented the Northlands arena (Rexall Place) should be demolished and the land repurposed in a way that would complement the surrounding neighbourhood, act as a catalyst to stimulate development growth, and support the sustainability of Northlands.”
Though we did look at other models, it became clear to us that most of them are not desirable. Nobody wins in a competitive model, going dark would be highly detrimental to the community, and as mentioned, kicking the can down the road is possibly the worst decision that could be made.
The next step now is for the Northlands Board to decide which direction they want to go. I expect they’ll need some time to digest the report and its findings, and with the AGM and election coming up at the end of the month, it’ll likely be the new board that deals with the decision. Northlands has already been undergoing some strategic review and planning and I expect that work to continue into the fall.
I have really enjoyed my time on the Committee. The timelime we were working with was aggressive, but I think that brought an appropriate level of urgency to the process. I certainly learned a lot over the last six months, and I hope that I have made a meaningful contribution. I have quite a bit to say about Rexall Place and this whole challenge which I will share in the weeks ahead. For now, check out the report and let me know what you think!