It’s been closed for years and costs the city more than $1 million annually to maintain, but the end is near.
Edmonton city council voted to demolish the Northlands Coliseum, formerly known as Rexall Place and Skyreach Centre, during budget deliberations Monday.
The demolition will cost $35 million over four years and there is no planned date yet for the project. The vote passed 8-5, with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and councillors Sarah Hamilton, Karen Principe, Jennifer Rice and Keren Tang opposed.
The building, home to the Edmonton Oilers for 42 years, costs around $1.5 million a year in dark operation, according to Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador.
“Truly this should have been addressed years ago. At this point we have explored numerous options, including repurposing the building… to trying to strike different deals, but it’s very clear that those options are not viable,” she said.
“At this point, it’s inevitable that we have to fund the demolition.”
Salvador called the empty arena a “gaping wound in the community.”
“I just don’t think it’s responsible to continue kicking the can down the road, ultimately at the expense of taxpayers,” she said.
In 2020, the City of Edmonton released its plan for redeveloping the parcel of land home to the Coliseum along with the Edmonton EXPO Centre and the Northlands horseracing track.
The city said the Coliseum demolition is part of the city’s Exhibition Lands Redevelopment Project that will see the 160-acre area transformed into housing, retail, commercial and recreational spaces, as well as two urban plazas beside two LRT stations.
“The Coliseum site is an important location in the implementation of the overall project. Due to its proximity to the EXPO Centre, once the demolition is complete it is anticipated that the site will be used for large outdoor events, event surface parking and staging,” said the city in the implementation plan for the project.
Like the Coliseum, the Northlands building will need to be demolished and will require a significant upfront investment, according to the city.
“Due to the spread out nature of buildings on the site unlike the Coliseum site, the Northlands site can be demolished in stages as development encroaches,” said the city.
Another project, reconfiguring Borden Park, is an “exceptionally important city building project in the initial stages of the transformation of the Exhibition Lands.”
“Utilizing its existing high quality assets as development land amenities and demonstrating the city’s commitment to its reconfiguration and expansion northward will create momentum to kick off the redevelopment,” said the city.
Other long-term projects in the redevelopment include realigning Wayne Gretzky Drive, the construction of an LRT station at 115 Avenue and the moving of the Coliseum LRT station from 118 Avenue to 119 Avenue.
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The lands will one day be sold to one or many development partners, who will have to submit a plan to fulfill the city’s vision of the area.
Read more: City of Edmonton to begin selling parcels of land as part of Exhibition Lands Redevelopment Project
At the meeting on Monday, Coun. Andrew Knack asked if council could try to sell the Coliseum or, to save even a few million dollars, pay someone less than $35 million to take it off the city’s hands.
“Is it not viable to go to the market and say, ‘We’re going to sell this for a dollar,’ or … ‘We’ll give you $5 million if someone takes on the requirement to demolish and then ultimately develop?’” Knack asked city staff.
Bartosz Jarocki, in the city’s real estate department, said they’ve explored the options and requesting any developer to take it on would be quite the ask.
“We haven’t received any expressions of interest along those lines where someone would be willing to take on the demolition work for us,” he said.
Jarocki said the land will eventually hold a park, plaza and an LRT station and the city wants to be able to control the land in the future.
However, staff said they would keep looking into options and see if a developer comes along to tear it down.
City staff said there is still design work that needs to go forward before demolition.
Budget deliberations continue until Dec. 16.