EDMONTON — A month after Northlands released its bold vision for the future, the preparations are underway to make the case to city hall and the public overall that the idea has merit.
But the three-pronged plan comes with a big cost: $165 million for renovations to the arena, an expansion of Hall D at the Expo Centre, and the creation of a new festival site, replacing the horse track.
Northlands president and CEO recently sat down with Global News. In a long-ranging interview at centre ice at Rexall Place, Tim Reid didn’t mince words about what’s at stake.
Global News: Is it worth $165 million in these economic times to make that kind of investment, when we don’t know where the money is coming from?
Tim Reid: “I think it’s a very real concern. In the small window of time that we’re looking at today, the economy is challenged. But it also means there’s a willingness to invest in capital projects that drive new tourism generation, new dollars, economic impact and when we look at the catalyst project that we’ve proposed…it’s not a short term play. This is a play that you need to look at over the next century.”
GN: What if there’s only funding for one (component)? Can Northlands still move forward as an organization?
TR: “If the community comes back and they say, ‘Hey, we like the future Coliseum and we don’t like Hall D,’ that’s a conversation we need to have and we as Northlands will be willing to accept pieces of this.”
GN: If this (Rexall Place) turns into a premier hockey facility, if Hall D is expanded, if the festival grounds take shape, why couldn’t that be folded into another civic organization? Why should Northlands be the steward of all this?
TR: “I don’t know that we need to be. I actually think that’s the second part of this conversation. We need to start with, ‘Is this a good idea?’ and then we can talk about how you run it. But what I would comment is we’ve been in this business for 137 years…and so, we started making great ice and running great hockey events and we have that history. But we also have that history of running great entertainment experiences.”
GN: Are you worried that everything could be lost if the plan that’s laid out doesn’t proceed as is?
TR: “If this is a time for Northlands to rebuild itself and stay strong for the next 100 years, we’re excited about that. But if we go through a very public and open engagement process and the community comes back and says this is actually a time for Northlands to change or not be in the leadership role that it is today, we would have to listen to that.”
After releasing details of Vision 2020 last month, Northlands encouraged feedback on the plan. The survey closed on March 7.
Some of the results will be released Tuesday when Northlands makes its formal presentation to city council about where it would like to see itself in the future.