Arena could open by 2015: Katz Group

 According to the people behind the new downtown arena, the new building could be open in just over three years.

Representatives from the Katz group and the city spoke at a trade show and conference for construction and real estate managers at the Edmonton Expo Centre Wednesday morning.

The presentation lasted about an hour and a half and they said the target for the arena’s opening is the summer of 2015. That is if everything goes as planned.

One of the proposed changes in the design is to the Winter Garden plan for the south side of the arena district.

Originally a walkway was planned to cross over 104 Avenue to take people from the arena to a shopping restaurant area on the south side of the avenue.

The new design talked about Wednesday would have the walkway over 104 Avenue drop down to ground level immediately on the south side of the avenue to an at grade plaza.

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One of the reasons for the change is to make the arena district more connected to the rest of downtown.

“I think that was recognized by the architect and was recognized by the design team,” says Rick Daviss, the city’s Executive Director for the Downtown Sports and Entertainment District Project, “and there was a real desire to try and bring this down to street level and to bring the plaza down to street level and that’s what we’re pursuing now.

“Edmonton is very much committed to a vision of the downtown that focuses on enhanced pedestrian connectivity,” Bob Black, Executive Vice President of the Edmonton Arena Corp./Katz Group, told Global Edmonton, “and that’s something we really embrace as a central opportunity with the district. Pedestrian movement will increase the activity on the streets, the vibrancy of the streets. It will create commercial opportunities on the streets which don’t currently exist and it will ultimately make the streets a safer place to be.”

There is no official architect in place but an announcement is expected soon. While not formally announced, it appears the firm is working on plans already.

“I think good urban design focuses on pedestrian connectivity,” says Black, “And right now, we’ve got tremendous things in our downtown core, but they are not necessarily connected. 104th street doesn’t currently connect in any obvious pedestrian fashion to the civic precinct and the arts district. And so if, through the design of the arena district, we can enhance those pedestrian connections we think that’s a big win and we think it’s a central opportunity for the development.”

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New designs are expected to be brought forward to council in May and an extensive public consultation will take place over the summer.

With files from Vinesh Pratap