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City won’t bend to pressure from Northlands over K-Days, Vision 2020: Mayor

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is firing back at Northlands after its CEO called for the city to act quickly to invest in its future. As Julia Wong reports, the mayor says council will not be pressured.

Edmonton mayor Don Iveson is firing back after the CEO of Northlands said the city needs to act, and act quickly, to invest in its future.

On Tuesday, CEO Tim Reid said this year may have been the last for K-Days and wants the city to approve Vision 2020.

“Our board of directors has been clear with our messaging that if we can’t find a path forward where we as Northlands offer value, not only to the northeast, but also to Edmonton and northern Alberta, then we’d wind down our business,” Reid said.

Mayor Don Iveson said council does not respond well to that type of pressure.

“I’m not sure that’s a helpful suggestion at all. We have some big decisions to make with regards to the significant funding shortfall Northlands is experiencing around the convention centre, the Expo Centre before we even talk about any other investments they would be proposing,” he said.

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Northlands is looking for roughly $48 million in debt forgiveness from the city related to construction of the Edmonton Expo Centre as well as an investment in its redevelopment strategy.

Vision 2020 would see Northlands expanded to include a lacrosse field, outdoor concert space, and indoor and outdoor skating rinks.

READ MORE: Cost of transforming Northlands pegged at $85M 

“We think Vision 2020 gives us an opportunity to enhance the city, as well as make sure that Northlands is sustainable and pay back our debt, but we do need some time to be able to find that vision,” Reid said.

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K-Days saw an increase in attendance this year; Iveson said it is important for the city to have a big summer festival like it.

READ MORE: K-Days and Heritage Festival celebrate big turnout, successes in 2016 

“I’m confident there will be a K-Days or something like it next year, operated by Northlands or somebody like it next year,” he said.

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“I actually think there’s opportunity to improve that. That will happen regardless of who is running the festival though, ideally, we find a solution with Northlands where they continue to be involved.”

Iveson said Northlands is in a “precarious” position right now. Council will receive several reports about it at the end of the month, and a public hearing will be held Aug. 31 from 1:30 to 9:30 p.m.

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“I’m not feeling pressured to act in a hurry. I understand Northlands wants a rapid resolution to this but I think for too long we’ve had uncertainty about how the convention centres work together, how we’re going to deal with certain kinds of major events, what we’re going to do with the land as horse racing winds down,” he said.

Iveson said council will work “astutely” through this process.

READ MORE: Canadian Finals Rodeo heading to Saskatoon 

“Anytime council rushes to make a decision, our track record is not as good as when we take our time and listen to the public. So I don’t think we’ll be rushed into doing anything.”

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The loan payments for the Edmonton Expo Centre are around $4 million per year, and Reid said the facility loses about $3 million each year.

Northlands has been able to make payments up until now because of the revenue coming in from Rexall Place. However, with the Edmonton Oilers and concert industry moving out, Northlands estimates its earning will go from $9.3 million to $600,000 in 2017.