The idea of converting Northlands Coliseum to a hockey academy centre with Hockey Canada has taken a big step forward.
Putting in four sheets of ice, a running track, classrooms and other centre of excellence amenities into the former home of the Edmonton OIlers at Northlands will go ahead, once the administration works out a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Katz Group and Hockey Canada.
“We have had preliminary discussions with the Katz Group relative to this concept and got preliminary interest,” said city manager Linda Cochrane.
The Oilers Entertainment Group would have to sign off on the MOU, because of the language in the downtown arena deal that prevents the Coliseum from being used for professional sports activity.
“The ball is really in their court,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters. “If they’re not on board then that would be a significant challenge. But I think both see the value of this and I don’t think those will be hurdles but obviously we have to clear those hurdles before we can go and do a lot more work on this.”
Northlands CEO Tim Reid is also happy with the direction the talks are going. He said Hockey Canada’s brand will be good for the building.
“This entire discussion was really about brand reputation and Hockey Canada has such a great brand, but so does the Coliseum. I think we can’t minimize the impact of keeping that building and most importantly as the mayor suggested, keeping that building activated in a neighborhood like ours is incredibly vital.”
“Our board of directors have always said the outcome is probably the most important thing as long as it’s in the best interest of the citizens of Edmonton,” Reid said.
Iveson believes Hockey Canada can bring sponsors to the table with money to help pay for the operating costs. Initial capital costs are estimated at $102 million based on the administration’s report on the proposal.
Hockey Canada’s Tom Renney told council the proposal is not hockey centric, and other sports will have opportunity to use the building. Deputy city manager Rob Smyth who oversees community services initiatives like those built for recreational activities told council there is room for more partners to come on board.
“Sports like lacrosse and track and field, under Hockey Canada’s umbrella, we’d have further conversations with all of those organizations in terms of how could they come to the table and be a part of a new program at that facility,” Smyth said.
While work continues on renovating the Coliseum, parallel work continues on a real estate play for the rest of the Northlands campus. Plans include long talked about hotels, hospitality, retail and residential use.
“The prospects are only getting better,” Mayor Iveson said. “As the economy starts to lift and as we do the study around Northlands with the area redevelopment plan and with the [LRT] train there, the prospects are rising for it rather than falling and I think that’s helpful. But it’s at a very general stage right now.”
The media was not able to speak to Renney. He left without taking any questions from reporters. He is being replaced as head of Hockey Canada by Scott Smith at the beginning of July.