Rexall Place loses out to new arena in report’s recommendations

At least six downtown locations will be recommended as possible sites to build a new arena in a long-awaited feasibility report to be released today.



In turn, the existing Rexall site could be transformed into high-density or low-income housing with an attached recreation centre, according to a committee member behind the landmark report.



While the report will be released today, the public won’t be told the exact locations of any proposed arena sites to avoid land speculation, said Lyle Best, Northlands board member and chairman of the arena feasibility committee.

"We are going to say, categorically, that this thing has to be downtown," he told Metro yesterday. "We just know that it’s a unique opportunity."

Comprised of community leaders with ties to the Oilers and Northlands, the committee studied around eight sites in detail altogether — but rumoured locations near the airport or along Anthony Henday Drive were never on the table.

The prospect of building a new downtown arena and keeping Rexall Place running with its current arrangement aren’t considered feasible options for a city the size of Edmonton, Best said.

But downtown is viable because arenas need attached high-density development to finance their enormous costs, he said, but the arena would still require several "partnerships" to fund the mega-project.

Last year, a study commissioned by Northlands pegged renovating Rexall Place at approaching $250 million. Initial cost estimates for a new arena have varied from $500 million to as high as $1 billion.

Best’s committee will brief city council on the report this morning before Mayor Stephen Mandel addresses a luncheon crowd of the Downtown Business Association.

Mandel refused to discuss the future of Rexall Place or a new arena yesterday, deferring questions until after the report is released.

"I gotta tell you, it’s hard to believe that there’s so much excitement about a report," he said.

Mandel has stated numerous times that no taxpayer dollars will be used to finance the project.

rumoured locations

  • Rumoured arena locations have included north of city hall or near the Baccarat Casino. Daryl Katz, the new billionaire owner of the Oilers, has already committed $100 million toward building a downtown complex.