May 30, 2017 6:05 pm
Updated: May 30, 2017 9:54 pm

Council postpones decision on working with Hockey Canada at Northlands Coliseum

WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson offered his strongest words yet on Tuesday about the possibility of Northlands Coliseum becoming a part of the history books. Vinesh Pratap has more on the debate about the arena's future.

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Edmonton city council has put off making a decision on signing a memorandum of understanding with Hockey Canada on the Northlands Coliseum.

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There are too many unanswered questions right now about the future of Northlands, the cost of renovating the coliseum that’s going up and up and the comparable cost of building six sheets of ice in other formats around the city.

Cost estimates are growing faster than a shot from the point on building on site, or tearing down the 40-year-old building and starting from scratch. Original estimate for converting the former home of the Edmonton Oilers was $102 million, but now could be as high as $150 million because of a lot of extra space inside the round concrete shell of the building.

Estimates range from 100,000 to 150,000 sq ft to fill.

“The hockey centre of excellence option, I think we have to go back to Hockey Canada and say ‘what does it make sense to bolt that on to?'” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters Tuesday.

“Could you bolt that on to two-plex or three-plex? What other sites could make sense because I think we’re still very interested.”

READ MORE: Report raises new questions about future of Northlands Coliseum

“Remember in our arena strategy we weren’t going to be building anything new imminently. In the next 10 to 20 years we need to replace some number of these single sheet buildings as they age out.”

“It’s a tough decision and it’s going to be complicated and that’s why I think it’s taken years,” Councillor Michael Oshry said. “Literally it”ll take years because there’s not real easy answer, there’s no real obvious answer here.

“There’s going to be goods and bads about both scenarios so I don’t know where it’s going to go but It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen quickly, because it’s complicated.”

Councillor Michael Walters sees some urgency in getting something done because he said he doesn’t want to see money wasted keeping the lights one while a decision is pondered.

“We must have thought back in the day when we did the downtown arena that this would come to us as a point of tension. We’d have to figure this out,” he said.

“So here we are, life gave us lemons. We’ve got to make lemonade, we need to understand what those risks of not giving this more urgent priority would be. And that could be part of the analysis that comes back.”

READ MORE: Edmonton city council buys Hockey Canada’s Northlands Coliseum vision

As much as costs seem to be climbing, there’s something to be said for keeping the home of where the Edmonton Oilers won five Stanley Cups active, even if the city pays a premium for that.

“One-hundred per cent,” Oshry said. “If you’re going to be using this for hockey academies or you’re going to be bringing in kids for hockey tournaments, you can brand this as the place that Wayne Gretzky skated in this building, I think there’s huge value in that.

“We build beautiful new rec centres but sometimes it’s not a bad a idea to celebrate the history of the city.”

But how much? Iveson said $2 million might be fine, but $10 million or more?

Northlands will provide a report to city council June 27 that will detail its future business plan which includes agriculture and how it’ll integrate with Edmonton Economic Development Corporation on having a single management structure run the two convention facilities.

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