Northlands by the numbers

Today Northlands made a presentation to City Council. Chair Andrew Huntley and President Richard Andersen talked about the impact that the organization has in Edmonton, and answered questions related to the proposed downtown arena. Here’s an at-a-glance look at Northlands:

Most of those numbers come from the 2009 Northlands Annual Report (PDF). Northlands breaks its business into four areas: Northlands Major Events, Agriculture, Racing and Gaming, and Sales, Hospitality and Client Services. Racing and Gaming accounts for both the most revenue and the most expense – that area of the business lost over $7 million in 2009.

As David Staples noted, I don’t know how they get to 2500+ events.

Some other numbers, from the presentation this morning:

  • $5.8 million is the base cost of operating Rexall Place each year
  • $10.9 million is the cost of operating Rexall Place if you include hockey
  • $17.1 million is the cost of operating Rexall Place after including all other events
  • $1.1 million is the amount the Oilers contribute towards those operating costs
  • $2.2 million is the amount the City of Edmonton contributes toward those operating costs each year (adjusted for inflation)

The Oilers pay Northlands $1 to rent Rexall Place – that agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2014. Northlands pays the City of Edmonton $1 to rent the land its facilities are located on – that agreement is set to expire in 2034.

You can learn more about Northlands here, and you can see their answers to City Council’s questions here (PDF).

Proposed Downtown Arena: Response to Council’s Questions

Back in July, City Council asked questions of Administration, the Katz Group, and Northlands regarding the proposed downtown arena district. A lot of questions. Today, the responses to those questions are being made available in preparation for the December 10 meeting (read them here). Here are a few questions and answers that I have extracted.

Mayor Mandel asked Administration: How many parking stalls are in downtown Edmonton that are within 8-10 blocks of the new proposed arena site?

Data from a parking study prepared as a background report for the Capital City Downtown Plan (Capital City Downtown Plan) in 2008 and recent calculations indicate approximately 46,100 total parking stalls exist within a 10 block radius from the proposed arena site.  Of these, approximately 2,700 are on-street metered parking, 17,300 are off-street surface parking, and 26,100 are located within a parkade (i.e. structured parking).

Councillor Caterina asked Administration: Why was the 5th best location chosen rather than #1 – Jasper Avenue, #2 – Northlands, etc.?

The confidential HOK Study does not prioritize the proposed locations.  Rather, it identifies the essential components required to attract major sporting and entertainment events and identifies location issues and the criteria necessary for a successful facility development.  The proposed location for the district is a viable choice when factoring in the various criteria identified in the HOK Study, particularly related to the challenges/opportunities of land assembly.

Councillor Leibovici asked Administration: Can a condition of a CRL be a guaranteed revenue stream?  In other words if projected development does not occur as anticipated can the City require that the Katz Group provide a guarantee to cover debt servicing costs?

A risk assessment is part of the requirement for the CRL.  The CRL plan must identify expected and alternative funding sources in the event the development does not occur.  Alternative revenues to make up any shortfall in expected revenues from a CRL would be discussed as part of a negotiation with the Katz group.

Councillor Leibovici asked Administration: What are the projections for the Edmonton Convention Market? Part of the answer:

From Mike Fitzpatrick, VP & General Manager of the Shaw Convention Centre: The Shaw Conference Centre is routinely turning away convention business due to a lack of downtown convention space; when that happens these events are almost always forced to select another city.  In the nine months from January to September 2010 we have already turned away 13 future convention bookings.

Councillor Sohi asked Administration: Have discussions taken place with the Province regarding the CRL model?

Administration has had preliminary discussions with the province on the use of a CRL for arena development.

Councillor Anderson asked the Katz Group: Is the $100 m Katz dollars cash or land?

There are a number of ways to deliver $100m  in value, but we recognize that this will have to be done in a fashion that is acceptable to the City.

Councillor Iveson asked the Katz Group: Please explain exactly how a Location Agreement works from the Franchise perspective, including the contemplated duration of the agreement.

A location agreement would be a term of the lease pursuant to which the Oilers would play in the new building.  It would bind the Oilers to playing only in that building for the full term of the lease.  We are prepared to sign a long term lease in a new downtown arena that would bind the team to Edmonton for the  term of that lease.  We expect a term of 25 years or more.

Councillor Sloan asked the Katz Group: Forbes has shown consistently over the past 3 years that the Oiler net operating income is better than the Calgary Flames anywhere from $3 million to $10 million per year?

That is not accurate based on our information.

Councillor Sohi asked the Katz Group: Are two arenas viable in Edmonton?


Councillor Thiele asked the Katz Group: If no new downtown arena district is built in Edmonton and the Oilers will not play in a renovated Rexall Place, where will they play?

Our singular focus is upon negotiating a mutually satisfactory agreement with the City of Edmonton that will facilitate the construction of a new downtown arena.  We are confident that this can be achieved.

The complete list of questions and answers is available here. At the December 10 meeting, Northlands will be giving a presentation, the questions and answers will be discussed, and Administration will be talking about the public consultation that took place.

The issue will come before Council again on January 17. You can see more information here.

Attendance Numbers for Edmonton’s Capital EX

Edmonton’s Capital EX wrapped up yesterday. Sharon and I visited on Thursday evening and had a good time. Today Northlands released the attendance numbers, and though slightly lower than previous years, the ten-day festival still recorded an impressive 717,966 visits. I had been looking forward to the final numbers, so that I could compare it with previous years.

Here are the attendance numbers for the last ten years (you can download the raw data below):

Though much of the data is missing, I was able to track down some numbers going all the way back to 1879:

After getting this information, I decided to compare it to the population of Edmonton for the same time periods. Here is the comparison for the last ten years:

And the same comparison starting in 1879:


A couple things to note about the data in this post:

  • The event changed from Klondike Days (adopted in 1962) to Capital EX in 2006. This explains the large drop that year.
  • The event was a six-day fair from 1912 to 1967, and a ten-day fair thereafter (I think, certainly for the last 20 years or so it has been). I haven’t adjusted the figures for this.
  • The population data, which comes from the City of Edmonton, doesn’t account for surrounding communities.

Download the Capital EX Attendance & Edmonton Population data in CSV

Sources: iNews880, CBC, Edmonton Journal, Amusement Business (1, 2, 3, 4), City of Edmonton, Capital EX Fair History

Edmonton Oilers Arena Feasibility Report – Link Roundup

edmonton oilers Earlier this week, the nine-member committee studying the feasibility of building a new hockey arena in Edmonton released their report. It contains no surprises, and recommends that if a new facility is to be built, it should be built downtown. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it on the news, but there are lots of excellent blog posts on the story that should not be missed. Here they are, with quotes.

From Covered in Oil:

The other question, whether a new arena would be better off in another part of the City will have to go unanswered, as the Feasibility Committee didn’t seem to even bother to look anywhere else.

From Grandinite:

If I get the underlying logic of this development, bringing people downtown will bring in cash. but that cash will flow out of the area if the owners do not live downtown. Sure, money will be spent at restaurants and casinos, but where do the profits go?

From Colby Cosh:

I’m not too clear after reading the summary just what is wrong with the existing Rexall Place. I was looking forward to some clear public explanation of this, but all we’ve been given is a lot of wind about “downtown revitalization.”

From The Battle of Alberta:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

We already have a hockey shrine in Edmonton. It’s called the Northlands Coliseum. You might remember it. You won five Stanley Cups there.

A arena without a history of accomplishment is not a shrine. It’s a mall with seats.

From Fighting for Taxpayers:

Dr. Brad Humphreys, the foremost expert on the economic benefits of professional sport teams and arenas has proven that there is not an economic growth, but merely a shift of where the money is spent.


Of course I want Edmonton’s downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won’t automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article’s have alluded). I’m still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown.

From Alberta: Get Rich or Die Trying:

There will be a new arena and it will be downtown, any alternatives have pretty much been steamrolled over by the municipal government and the Edmonton media. There will be public funding, not direct tax increases, but by other means, and the province will give nothing.

From A Blog Of Pucks:

It would be an 18,000 seat 450 Million dollar arena. That’s great but once again I’ll ask the difficult question: Is this really going to make the wives like living in Edmonton any better? The committee better ask Pronger’s better half first.

And finally, this one isn’t a blog but an article at CBC today:

A new downtown Edmonton arena to replace Rexall Place could threaten one of the biggest annual events in the city, say officials with the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

The owners of Rexall Place, Edmonton Northlands, are ruling out the possibility of keeping it open as is, if a new arena is built.

“We can’t have two competing large-scale facilities,” Jerry Bouma, chair of the board, said Wednesday.

Also, be sure to check out this interview with Brad Humphreys.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Stay tuned.