Edmonton Economic Development Corporation boss Derek Hudson told city council during its budget presentation on Thursday that the Expo Centre is back to being in the black after years of losses under Northlands and he wants to see the city further invest in it.
The property was transferred to the arms-length agency of the city on New Year’s day, and it is now being run in conjunction with the Shaw Conference Centre.
Hudson later told reporters the EEDC has shifted events around to make better use of both facilities.
“The opportunity is to integrate more with Edmonton Tourism and the Shaw Conference Centre, and to take our overall convention business to the next level in Edmonton.”
Hudson said many probably didn’t notice the difference, but the transformation began earlier this year.
“It’s subtle things like moving activities which might have been done at the Shaw to the Expo Centre so we can put a new thing in at the Shaw. So that’s already happening.”
Hall D, which was once known as the AgriCom, is undergoing an operational review. Hudson said they are crunching numbers to see if renovations could possibly generate more business.
“What we’re doing right now, with respect to Hall D at the Expo Centre, is just trying to understand the possibilities, and see if there’s a business case for further investment,” he said. “It definitely needs paint and lights, and we’ll do that out of our budget, but there may be some bigger opportunities there.”
The arena played host to the Volleyball Canada Nationals this past May, and will become the home of the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Edmonton Stingers for a 20-game schedule next spring.
“Not all events fit into a 20,000 seat arena,” said Expo Centre GM Arlindo Gomes. “And we’re seeing that there is some demand.
“Now that we’ve gotten the taste of some volleyball, basketball, PBR, Disney on Ice… [we could maybe] attract curling events that would suit this size of venue.”
Temporary ice was put in for the Disney show. It was made possible by a portable ice plant that was brought in from the U.S., Gomes said.
The last time permanent ice was available was 12 years ago, however, when the Expo Centre was last renovated, the ice plant was removed.
At the time, when it appeared the Oilers might leave town for Houston in the 1990s, it was the home of Concordia University hockey. Ed Chynoweth had the AgriCom become the home of the Edmonton Ice before they moved to Cranbrook as the Kootenay Ice.
“We want Hall D to be super busy because there’s economic impact there, and there’s also benefit to the community,” Hudson said.
The EEDC presented a $20-million request to city council, which makes up about 30 per cent of its overall budget.