Future of Rexall Place: Repurpose or demolish and develop

WATCH ABOVE: Northlands CEO Tim Reid and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson speak about the recommendations of a Northlands committee on the future of Rexall Place.

EDMONTON — The Northlands Arena Strategy Committee recommended Wednesday that Rexall Place be repurposed: reduced in scale to host mid-sized events. For this approach to work, the committee said Northlands would need the Oilers Entertainment Group to collaborate with it and develop a non-compete agreement.

“Competition will not work in a city of our size,” said Northlands CEO Tim Reid.

If Northlands cannot find partners to collaborate with to redevelop Rexall Place, the committee’s secondary recommendation is to demolish and develop the land.

For the second approach to work, the committee said Northlands would need strong coordination with the City of Edmonton.

Reid described the two recommended solutions as “a win-win or a win-win-win scenario.”

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“The win-win scenario is an understanding that you, as Rexall Place and as Northlands, will be the secondary venue in this market.

“You will complement the business model of the downtown arena but you will find viability in your own model. You will establish an agreement or an MOU with the Oilers Entertainment Group that clearly defines what business goes where, outlines a programming schedule that is collaborative and avoids the cannibalization of the market in a very small marketplace.”

“The win-win-win scenario is the concept of repurposing the venue for the betterment of Edmontonians. Bring OEG to the table, the City of Edmonton and yourselves, and come with creativity around the repurposing of that venue that still has significant useful life,” explained Reid.

The recommendations came in a report made public on Wednesday. You can read it in full below.

Its authors also pointed out there were 164 events at Rexall Place in 2014. The arena is the single largest profit centre for Northlands, generating $9.2 million last year.

Inside of Rexall Place on April 15, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News
Inside of Rexall Place on April 15, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

The exploration committee looked at other North American cities with two arena venues. It found, of the 17 cities with NHL franchises that built new arenas, 11 of the older arenas were ultimately demolished. In six cases, facilities were saved and used for similar purposes after a new arena opened. Three venues have been repurposed.

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READ MORE: Most Northlands survey respondents want Rexall Place to stay

Leading up to the report, over 26,000 people shared their thoughts on the future of the arena through an online survey.

WATCH: Northlands CEO Tim Reid and chair of the Northlands Strategy Committee Andrew Ross join Gord to talk about the recommendations.

Reid said Wednesday they gathered a lot of insight from the public feedback.

“Be creative. Don’t follow, but lead,” he said.

“If you simply cannot deliver a complementary model, you should swiftly and quickly move to demolishing the facility and repurposing the lands.”

Mayor Don Iveson agreed with the report recommendations. At the news conference, he thanked members of the OEG for their participation.

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“I think that’s a very good sign that the lines of communication are open in a way that they hadn’t been previously.

“I think there are some creative possibilities that will add to the city and add to both organizations and benefit our citizens and business that can be worked out.

“And, if they can’t, and don’t involve continuing to use the building in something similar to its current configuration, there are lots of opportunities to think about repurposing so that there will still be activity on that site, benefit to the community and potentially synergies that add to Northlands’ financial sustainability,” said Iveson.

“I also agree that if we can’t find a solution that keeps that building active and vibrant, it cannot be boarded up. It cannot be derelict. If we cannot find a use for that building, that site will need to be repurposed, and sadly though it may be to contemplate, that building may have to come down.”

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The committee was struck after the new downtown arena was given final approval and questions were raised about the viability of two major arenas in Edmonton.

Vice Chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, Bob Nicholson, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon:

“We are reviewing the Northlands Arena Strategy Committee report released today.

In context of that report, there has been ongoing dialogue between Northlands CEO Tim Reid and I to identify potential areas where collaboration might be possible.

We expect to continue that dialogue, with both Northlands and the City of Edmonton, as the Northlands Board reviews Committee recommendations and brings forward a renewed vision for Northlands.

Our priority throughout this process, now and in the future, is the long-term viability of Rogers Place, the Winter Garden and the Edmonton Arena District, and driving new sports and entertainment offerings into the downtown core, which will be a catalyst for the long-term development and vibrancy of Edmonton.”

The report has been given to the Northlands Board of Directors, which will review the recommendations over the next several months.

WATCH: A committee looking at what to do with Rexall Place came forward with two recommendations. Vinesh Pratap reports.

FULL – Northlands Arena Strategy Committee

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Northlands Arena Strategy Committee Report Highlights

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