EEDC to run both Shaw and Expo Centres: report

The last Oilers locker room sale at the former Rexall Place, Sunday, June 12, 2016. Sarah Kraus, Global News

The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) is poised to take control of the Expo Centre on the Northlands grounds and merge its convention and trade show operations with what takes place at the Shaw Conference Centre.

That’s the recommendation to city council, in a private report that will be debated behind closed doors on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Partnership with Edmonton convention and tourism properties closer, but not there yet

EEDC’s Brad Ferguson confirmed they’ll be ready if that’s how council votes on the question.

“If that’s the choice of council then we will fulfill exactly what they ask us to do.”

Mayor Don Iveson told reporters that progress has been made on the file over the past several months, although he wouldn’t go into details about what will be presented to council at next week’s meeting.

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“I’m hopeful that we can conclude things but there may still be further rounds of details to work through. It depends a little bit what gets presented finally to us on Tuesday. And it depends on what council decides to do. I think we’re getting close and hopefully we’re able to say more in detail next week but we continue to make progress towards optimizing the convention centre business.”

READ MORE: CEO ‘more confident than ever’ of ‘great future for Northlands’

While a deal may be struck quickly, Iveson said the sales cycles to have trade shows and conventions shared by both venues will take some time to materialize.

“It’ll be years before we see the fruits of all this work,” Iveson said. “It’s a strategic change. There’ll be some short-term benefits of bringing things together with operating efficiencies but the longer-term benefits on sales, that will take time.”

“Over the last nine months Northlands and EEDC have both worked very collaboratively together to try to rectify some of the inconsistencies that have happened over many years,” Ferguson said. “Making sure the right bookings get in the right venue and if we work toward a common calendar, I think everybody wins.”

“I think the first thing that happens is that both teams come under a single leadership/management model. You’ll see a sharing of a calendar, so the right type of events happen in the right location, and the right venue. You’ll see some common pricing structures probably happen in the market place rather than undercutting each other and certainly and most importantly, is a unified marketing effort.”

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Northlands CEO Tim Reid wasn’t available for an interview but in a prepared statement said, “From the beginning Northlands focused on what is right for our staff, our neighbours and the city of Edmonton. Our team delivered to Council and City Administration a sustainable business plan that would see Northlands continue. Upon delivery of the plan we have negotiated with Administration to determine next steps. We look forward to Council’s decision next week.”

Iveson said he hopes Northlands can shift more into assisting the region with plans to increase Metro Edmonton’s market share in agrifood production and sales. He also said K-Days will continue to have a strong presence.

Whatever council decides Tuesday on having EEDC take over both venues, Iveson said it should be figured out in time for the Oct. 16 election, with all parts of the deal made public.