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Construction on Edmonton’s downtown arena begins

EDMONTON – Construction on Edmonton’s new downtown arena officially got underway Monday.

“It’s a huge milestone,” said Rick Daviss, executive director of the arena district project.

“We’re actually starting. It’s been a long road, not always an easy journey, but everybody’s been looking at that light at the end of the rainbow, and it’s certainly a lot closer now.”

First, crews will fence off the construction zone – between 104 and 102 St. and 104 and 105 Ave. – which will be closed to the public.

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Once work trailers are on site and the area cleared, the first phase of construction will begin: excavating soil for the underground parkade and installing concrete piles. The first phase will take several months to complete.

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“Then we start digging a hole, and it’s going to take two months to dig the hole and probably up to 300 trucks a day,” explained Daviss. “It’s going to be a very active construction site.”

“People aren’t really going to start to see steel come up out of the ground, and see some structure, probably until September, October of this year.”

“I’m actually kind of excited about it,” said Sean Billyea, who moved into his new apartment next to the arena site on Sunday.

“We’re right beside the brand new arena, so it’s going to be really exciting when it’s finished.  And, in the meantime, it’s interesting to watch the construction.”

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“There’s going to be the noise level of course, but I think it’s going to be alright,” he added.

The north lane of 104 Ave. will be closed between 104 and 102 St. for the entire construction period.

Starting on Monday, the pedestrian sidewalk along the north boulevard of 104 Ave. will be closed between 104 and 102 St.

“It’s going to be a little rough, it’s going to be a little inconvenient, but I think overall it’ll be a lot better for the city – the location,” said Talitha Barsy, who lives nearby.

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“It brings everything very central and it adds a lot to the downtown core,” she added.

“We get to be a part of seeing the new progress of Edmonton and get to be front and centre for it. I’m excited.”

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Some nearby businesses are also looking forward to the arena taking shape.

“It’s just exciting to actually have some momentum behind such a significant project for downtown Edmonton,” said Gillian Hodgson, marketing director for Mercer Tavern. “It will obviously bring in a lot of traffic for us, but also for surrounding businesses.”

“It injects a certain amount of excitement for all those downtown,” she added.

“Now, it’s kind of a tangible occurrence, rather than just something that everybody is talking about.”

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The entire project is estimated to take two-and-a-half years to finish. Rogers Place is scheduled to be completed September 2016.

On Feb. 11, Oilers owner Daryl Katz made a rare public appearance at City Hall to announce the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $480 million had been met.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the Oilers, and I’m very proud to own the team, even now,” joked Katz at the news conference. “But, it was the opportunity to do something great for our city… that motivated me from day one.”

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Mayor Don Iveson described the project as one “that will help realize our vision of a more vibrant downtown and ensures that the Edmonton Oilers remain a vital part of our city for years to come.”

WATCH: Jim Taylor on development of downtown Edmonton 

The total price for the arena project is $606.5 million, which includes a $2 million contribution from MacEwan University towards the community rink to increase capacity and improve functionality.

On Dec. 3, 2013, it was revealed that Rogers Communications had purchased the naming rights for the new arena, which would be called Rogers Place.