Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel and Oilers President & COO Patrick LaForge at the downtown arena location
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) and the City of Edmonton gathered Monday morning to unveil two large signs marking the future home of the downtown arena.
Located at 104th Avenue and 104th Street, the signs mark the southwest corner of the district, which will house the arena, a community rink, an LRT connection and a Winter Garden.
“It’s exciting,” said Mayor Stephen Mandel. “I won’t be here as Mayor when they start construction, at least I’m here when they put the signs up!”
Simon O’Byrne, spokesman for EEDC’s Downtown Vibrancy Coalition, welcomed supporters and media to a gathering in the Mercer Tavern, located across the street from the site.
“It’s a symbol of where the city is going,” said O’Byrne. “Edmonton feels very much like the future is in front us.”
The Downtown Vibrancy Coalition was created back in April and one of its priorities was to help campaign for the final approval of the downtown arena. Members recognized the significant amount of development in the downtown core waiting on arena approval, including shops, condos and restaurants.
“I’m a huge believer that downtowns define what cities are,” added Mayor Mandel. “You need catalysts, you need to create that kind of environment. This is one of those catalyst projects.”
Matt Hall, local entrepreneur and owner of Roast Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, is excited to see the new signage go up and couldn’t agree more with the Mayor’s sentiments.
“At the end of the day, this isn’t just a sign. This is a sign of how downtown is changing for the better. We’re looking at a whole transformation, some revitalization and this is going to help small businesses like myself stay sustainable over the long term. We’re going to see some great growth out of the area.”
While some local residents have argued that the arena will only exist to serve hockey patrons, Hall sees this new downtown project as just the opposite.
“Someone said, ‘you know, I don’t really see the comparison between coffee and hockey,’ but at the end of the day, it’s not just hockey. This is going to be an entertainment complex where people are going to come in and get a glass of wine or beer before or after with friends. For us, it’s just going to bring some great sustainability to our business.”
The signs have already begun to create a buzz among the drivers, cyclists and pedestrians passing by, as people see another step being taken towards a new downtown arena. Last May 15, City Council approved the funding formula and the Edmonton Oilers have since been working with the City and various project leaders to bring the building to life.
“We’re going through the process of design and development as a group with ICON, the City and the Architect, 360, to a place where we’ll produce something called the GMP, the Guaranteed Maximum Price,” says Patrick LaForge, the Oilers President & COO.
Once the final price has been nailed down, construction will begin on the $480-million facility, with it slated to open in the fall of 2016.