In all seriousness, what I said is true. Northlands has come out and said that renovating Rexall Place would be significantly cheaper now than when they first estimated the cost in 2008. And they are 100% right. But facts are facts. Sure, they could add onto the building, make more and bigger concourses. They can equip the building with the best technology available. But one issue remains. There is no way that they can renovate Rexall Place that can put 3000 more seats in the rink, and that is one of the biggest issues.
Rexall Place has a capacity of 16,839. That is among the smallest in the NHL. This is Edmonton, where we could probably put 35,000 people in an arena for every single Oilers game. Less than 17,000 simply is not enough.
Another issue is location. I love Rexall Place, and if it was downtown, or anywhere near downtown, we would not be having this discussion, the renovations would probably already be underway. But the fact of the matter is that, even with the LRT line, Rexall Place is too far away from the core of the city. Once you leave the arena, there really is nowhere for people to go after. Everyone gets into their cars, or onto the LRT, and goes home. Having the arena downtown will mean that after a game is over, there are tons of things to do within walking distance. This would be a huge boost to our downtown, when 2-3 nights a week there are 19,000 people flooding into the core of the city. I have been to the Air Canada Center in Toronto for a Leafs game, and it really is no comparison. The experience of going to a Leafs game is so much better, because of the massive amounts of amenities that are within steps of the arena. When I went I spent the entire day downtown, which I would not have done had the Air Canada Center been far away from the core of the city.
What I really hope is that this is just posturing from Northlands. They have been running the biggest arena in the city from 1974, and I know they are not thrilled with the prospect of someone building a bigger, better arena and having them shut out of it. What I personally would like to see is a downtown arena that is run by Northlands. Northlands is a world class organization and the Katz group should use their expertise to make the new downtown arena as good as possible. They need to work together, not fight and bicker over who gets to be part of the new project. I think they will get there eventually, it’s just very frustrating to see this very long drawn out fight.
I’m not going to get into the issue of who should pay for the arena right now. I have my opinions, others have theirs. What we need is to get the City, the Katz Group, and Northlands to sit down together and work something out. Again, everyone is posturing, everyone is trying to get the public on their side. Just sit down and get something done. No one is winning right now. We are all going to end up paying for it no matter what way it gets built, be it through taxes if the city funds part of the building or higher costs of using the arena if it is built with private money. At the end of the day, we will pay for it anyway. So please, lets just stop the posturing, stop the fighting, and sit down and get this done.
I will say it again: I love Rexall Place. It really is a nice arena, if a bit small. I enjoy the experience I have when I go to an Oilers game, a Rush game, or a concert (I have yet to see an Oil Kings game, something I intend to fix next season). It’s not a bad time by any stretch of the imagination. But I have also experienced an arena in the vein of what the Katz group is trying to accomplish, and I want to have that experience here in Edmonton. The only way we will accomplish that is to put the arena downtown. Lets get it done.