EDMONTON — Northlands may be forced the change its plans for the redevelopment of Rexall Place because of a clause in the contract surrounding Edmonton’s downtown arena.
Last week, Northlands released its vision for the site, which includes transforming Rexall Place into a seven-sheet ice facility. The organization hopes the two-level, $85-million facility will turn Edmonton into the hockey tournament capital of Canada.
There’s no word yet on how much money Northlands is seeking from the City of Edmonton to help fund the $165-million project, but if the city helps Northlands financially, it could be in violation of its master agreement with the Edmonton Arena Corporation.
According to the master agreement, signed in August 2013, the city “will not financially support or advocate in favour of any initiative to rebuild or substantially renovate Rexall Place unless such rebuilding or renovation is for the purpose of converting Rexall Place into a facility to be used for the purposes other than as a sports or entertainment facility.”
Northlands President and CEO Tim Reid said his organization was in close talks with the Oilers Entertainment Group when the redevelopment plans were being drafted and hopes the clause won’t be a deal breaker.
“I think we could debate for eons whether this is sport or, quite frankly, recreation. I mean, our title has been all about recreation, not necessarily competitive sport,” Reid said. “Ultimately, I think if it’s a good idea, that probably doesn’t matter, as long as nobody feels that the intent of that contract is being undermined.
“My hope is if you can find a win-win-win, there’s always a way to work through a contract.”
City Councillor Michael Oshry doesn’t think the city has anything to worry about.
“The intent of the agreement was to have Rexall Place not be in direct competition with the Oilers and for the concert business,” he said. “To turn this into a recreation facility where there’s sheets of ice for hockey or indoor soccer is not at all in competition with what the Katz Group is looking at so I’m not concerned this is going to be an issue.
“This might be a technicality but it’s not something I think is going to hold up Northlands’ plan if Northlands plan is approved by city council.”
The Oilers Entertainment Group has not said how it views the master agreement, only that the OEG is aware of its rights and it expects the city is, as well.
Other proposed renovations would turn Hall D inside the Edmonton Expo Centre into a 5,000-seat concert space and sports arena. Northlands’ plans also include converting the horse racetrack and casino into an urban festival site.
Reid said Northlands has seen huge interest in its online survey asking Edmontonians to have their say on the plans.
The concept will go to city council on March 15.