Downtown arena will be among world’s best

EDMONTON – Edmonton’s new downtown arena will certainly be a catalyst to the development of the area around it as the Edmonton Arena District is expected to help revitalize the core of the city. However, in addition to what will be a transformed area around 104 avenue between 101 and 104 street, the arena itself will serve as a focal point.

Oilers owner Daryl Katz talked to the media about the facility itself.

“We’ve been involved in every step of the design process as has the city administration. I think it really is a team project here and everybody should be given a lot of credit for coming up with something that is going to be really special and stand the test of time”, Katz began. “Our objective from the outset, from the leadership report, was to build a world-class facility. I think that’s exactly what we’re going to build.”

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel echoed Katz’s comments.

“I was just in Brooklyn and saw their facility which cost over a billion dollars. It does not hold a candle to what the inside of ours is going to look like. The one that’s going to be built here is absolutely magnificent and I think Edmontonians will be quite proud of it,” he stated. “Ours is going to be very, very special. I look forward to the day the first puck is dropped.”

Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge talked about some of the key features and amenities which will impress hockey fans and concertgoers alike.

“It’s been said a lot of different ways, but our group has visited every NHL city many times in the last five years. We’ve been to cities that aren’t in the NHL but have fantastic NFL stadiums or fantastic Major League Baseball stadiums. We’ve seen what they’ve done on the edge of the cities,” LaForge remarked.

“But downtown facilities have really been game changers. I could give you a never-ending list of places — from Toronto, which we’ve been watching on the air, to Columbus to the San Diego PETCO ballpark and all the condo developments that have gone on around it in San Diego to Vancouver and the Yaletown development.

“Every one of those inner-city complexes has attracted like a magnet a super investment, fun areas, places where people want to be. They’ve been game changers for those areas of the city.

“As Mr. Katz said, it will be the best. And the mayor reiterated that he’s been to Barclay’s Center (in Brooklyn) and had something to say about that.”

James Cumming, President of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, said that today was a landmark day for the city.

“Great deal for downtown Edmonton. It will put our downtown on the map,” he said. “Should lead to a lot of development and a lot of excitement in the core of the city. It’s a great day for the City of Edmonton and particularly for Edmonton business.”

Cumming talked about how the arena will be a catalyst to other development.

“It builds that critical mass which causes other people to want to migrate to the core. I suspect you’ll see a fair bit of residential development along with some of the accessory development that comes with that. It will create a hub of activity in the downtown,” Cumming noted. “There’s a fair bit of development already in the area where the entertainment district is going. Now that this is formally announced and we’re getting on with it, I think you’ll start to see a little bit more enthusiasm and some other things that should drive some tower cranes to downtown.”

LaForge added that the hockey experience, concert experience and event experience in general will be something that Edmontonians haven’t yet experienced but will be blown away by.

“19,000 seats. We’re currently at 16,500. The best sight lines. Close to the ice, close to the basketball court, close to the lacrosse court, close to the rodeo arena, whatever. Stacked, underground parking, lots of places for people to gather, to socialize,” LaForge said, adding that the area surrounding the facility will also change the way fans attend arena events.

“A foyer called the Wintergarden which goes over 104 avenue. It takes into account the all-weather conditions we have in Northern Alberta. And then there’s the LRT station, the convenience of getting there, the convenience of getting in and out of the arena, the ability for you to make it an all-day event: go shopping, participate in other downtown activities.

“Premium hotels on the site and we add to it more dining destinations. You can just park your car or take the LRT and without making a reservation and booking a timeslot you know that when you get there there’s something for you to do and you will enjoy. It will be a fun, fun place to be.”