Starting today, and for the next five years you can watch how the city copes with staging K-Days for 10 days every late July, all the while planning the redevelopment of the site’s 200 acres.
This is the first year the Coliseum is off limits. Next year at this time, Northlands Park – also known as the Spectrum – will be closed. City council has already voted to demolish the Coliseum.
Lyall Brenneis, the manager for the city’s Exhibition Lands Transformation Project, said in an interview on the eve of the fair the race track building will eventually be gone too.
“There’s no funding in place to tear it down so I don’t expect that it’ll be sooner, but it’s certainly not the intent to continue to operate it in that way, because the whole casino operation and horse racing moves to the new track.”
Century Mile opens in the spring by the Edmonton International Airport, so that will be the demise of Northlands Park.
“With that building being closed, I’m not sure what Northlands plans are,” Brenneis said. “My expectation would be that they’d stage some kind of casino somewhere on the site, but it wouldn’t be in that building because that building will be vacant after this year.”
He expects Northlands to get a 10-day licence from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission for a casino of some description to be staged, likely in the Expo Centre.
Sometime in 2020, year three of this five-year plan, Northlands will have to indicate to city council if it wants another five-year option on the land for both K-Days and Farm Fair.
By then, the city will be well down the road in its redevelopment plan. Brenneis said city council will get an update in the first quarter of 2019 on the options that have been conjured up since the city launched a massive brainstorming session.
“We’ve had ideas for continued events operation, some bigger anchor ideas like an expanded university, or an aquarium, or an Indigenous wellness centre, or all kinds of interesting, interesting combinations.”
Not on. Using the structure of the Coliseum for housing, in spite of efforts from developers who had made presentations to city council in mid-June.
“We made it pretty clear,” Brenneis said. “Council made it clear, we’ve agreed to permanently close the building. That means no re-use, and no re-purpose. Not everybody’s there yet, but that’s certainly the decision that’s been made.
“There is a demolition investigation currently underway for the Coliseum. A higher level investigation for Northlands Park (the Spectrum) but until we have a better understanding of the numbers, like we’re not anywhere near implementation yet. We’re still trying to figure out the final plan and the vision for the site.”
Last December, council was first told it costs $1.5 million a year to keep the Coliseum dark, and they’re exploring demolition costs that range from $8 million to $25 million. Keeping the Spectrum race track building mothballed is an apples to oranges comparison to the Coliseum, so Brenneis said they haven’t got a cost for securing it, or a demolition price tag either. That too should be before council in the spring.
Can K-Days go somewhere else in the city after 2022? Or even five years after that?
“Not that I’m aware of,” Brenneis said, adding that another home is not in the scope of the work they’re doing now. “I don’t know how Northlands is pursuing that or interested in that. It’s a fairly large festival. You have to figure out just how many acres they need, and see how it can be re-positioned. Certainly they have a long history on this site.”
It might be other festivals will come to the Exhibition Lands. He said the proposal that was first pitched over a year ago, and dissed by many, is still on the table.