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Edmonton city councillor sees something fishy in Coliseum closure report

Northlands Coliseum Farewell Weekend, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017.
Northlands Coliseum Farewell Weekend, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017. Charles Taylor, Global News

Edmonton City Councillor Tony Caterina sees a disconnect in the Northlands Coliseum report that city council will deal with Tuesday.

The report makes official what lawyers for the Oilers Entertainment Group and the city have been negotiating for several months. Permanent closure of the Coliseum, in exchange for the termination of a $2 million a year sponsorship deal at Rogers Place.

Taxpayers were supposed to be on the hook for a total of $20 million over 10 years for a luxury suite at the downtown arena. That suite was hardly used. Mayor Don Iveson has gone on the record saying he’s never set foot inside.

Ending the agreement would mean there will still be $17 million that will remain with the city.

“I have a number of questions,” Caterina said. “The report and the legal document are different.”

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Caterina has highlighted a clause in one of the attachments to the report that says the building will close, and the city agrees “that it shall not reopen it, and shall not permit the Coliseum to reopen, for any purposes.”

READ MORE: Northlands Coliseum’s neighbours want more input on plan for exhibition lands

That’s what’s bothering him. He said council all along agreed that the Coliseum could never be used for sports or entertainment, meaning no games involving spectators and no concerts.

“It’s not just a closure of the building, it’s to make sure we, the city don’t allow anyone else to do anything with it. So I need a clarification from legal on their interpretation of this.”

However Caterina said council was always led to believe that if the building could be used for another unrelated purpose, that would be okay.

“Given the clause that’s in the legal part of this, that’s what it’s telling me, that we can never allow anyone to get a building permit, or a development permit for that particular building.”

READ MORE: Proposal for film production in Coliseum too much of a grey area

Caterina said he’s aware of some preliminary discussions that would have converted the building to be redesigned as a sound stage for film and even video game production. That’s where scenes could be shot in front of an electronic screen, with actors wearing motion capture suits.

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“That is considered by legal, as something that might be contradictory to the master agreement because it provides a form of entertainment that’s produced at that particular site.”

Caterina said he doesn’t want to waste a lot of money arguing what is or isn’t entertainment in court.

“Certainly we don’t want to be put in a position that others challenge us legally for some of the decisions we’ve made. So this one we’ve got to be extremely careful.”

READ MORE: Report tells Edmonton city council to go slow on Coliseum decision

Finalizing the agreement is the next step in what is expected to be the demolition of the Coliseum, possibly as early as 2019. Council has been told it’ll cost $1.5 million a year to secure the 17 acres of land north of 118 Avenue.

The city is looking to see if a developer would absorb the demolition costs as part of the purchase price, or if the city would be better off demolishing the Coliseum, then selling the cleared 17 acres.

Council won’t make a decision on the entire 160 acre exhibition lands until next year, as the city explores options in its area redevelopment plan.

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