Some of the particulars about the Expo Centre are starting to emerge one day after city council endorsed the city taking over the facility, and its $47 million mortgage.
The transfer is also prompting city council to look at the Coliseum in a different way.
The plan, according to Mayor Don Iveson, is to look at the Expo Centre’s costs, split in two — the mortgage and day-to-day operations.
Watch below: On Aug. 29, 2017, city councillors voted to approve a plan to transition the Expo Centre to the City of Edmonton in a move to consolidate the Expo Centre and the Shaw Conference Centre.
“That’s based on today’s performance and hopefully we can get to a positive bottom line on it that we can put towards facility costs, or even the mortgage over time.”
The mortgage is $4 million a year.
“The lion’s share of it will be the $4 million for the mortgage, but we’re hopeful we can achieve break even on the operations of the conference centre once you take the mortgage out of it,” Iveson said on Wednesday.
Part of the problem with the Expo Centre is it was built during the days when the economy was booming and growth was presumed. Now it’s seen as too big, so an idea is being floated to hive off the older part of it, and use it for something other than convention and trade show space.
“Interesting ideas are emerging like working with Hockey Canada maybe on the south side of 118th in some of the under-utilized space,” Iveson confirmed. “That’s not a done deal. It’s just an idea, but it was intriguing enough for me to ask some more questions of staff even just within the last day.”
It would involve adding a second ice plant to create more rink space, as well as classrooms, dorms and other teaching facilities there instead of in the Coliseum. However, a stumbling block to that is the need for a new roof over Hall D at Northlands. That comes with an estimated price tag of $8.7 million.
Suddenly, as Coun. Michael Walters has noticed, the land north of 118 Avenue takes on a different scope.
“It would be unfortunate to tear down something that’s not that old but at the same time, we have other objectives as a city in terms of providing density and infill,” Walters said. “That’s a pretty ideal site to do it.”
Infill housing, a very short distance from LRT.
“The term Blatchford 2.0 has been used before,” Walters said. “Blatchford has some aggressive environmental goals that may not need to be replicated on the Northlands site, but that kind of density, mixed-use community, that will make the city more sustainable overall, could be built there.”
Same with the racetrack site once it’s torn down after the horses move to Century Mile near the Edmonton International Airport.
New management for Edmonton’s combined convention and trade show space should also allow the city to bid for events that are much larger in scale than anything it’s gone after before, Iveson said.
“There are actually dozens of events in that category that we may be able to go after with a more unified approach,” he said. “There are a number of sporting events and tournaments… that if we’re able to optimize hotels, venues up to and including Rogers Place and Expo by uniting all the clans to work together instead of at cross purposes, there are certainly things that we could be going after at a whole other scale than what we’ve gone after before.
“They aren’t necessarily Olympics and Commonwealth Games-scale, but they would drive tremendous hotel spending and retail and hospitality positive impacts.”
Northlands CEO Tim Reid released a statement on Wednesday, agreeing the move by council was the right thing to do.
“While we respect council’s decision, we were, however, surprised how council’s decision was issued and disappointed by the outcome,” the statement reads.
“The city will receive a $150-million asset in the Edmonton Expo Centre and Edmonton Economic Development Corporation will manage a building that has a solid business base moving into 2018.”
Council is hoping for more of the details on what the new arrangement means when they meet for the final time before the election on Sept. 12.