The mayor wants to see the Northlands Coliseum turned into a multiplex, and to bring the Shaw Conference Centre and Expo Centre under the same management team. Those are two of his four recommendations in a motion he’ll bring to a city council public hearing Wednesday.
The goal is to buy time for Northlands that has indicated it could be forced out of business if its redevelopment plan is rejected by city council. A report from the City of Edmonton administration is critical of several proposed initiatives from Northlands’ Vision 2020 document.
“I don’t think there’s public appetite, I don’t have appetite, I don’t think council has appetite to invest upwards of two to three hundred million dollars in facility expansion at Northlands,” Iveson told reporters, “until we can get the basic operations in hand, until we can look at conference centre integration, and until we explore all of the partnerships that might be necessary to make something like the arena re-purposing work.”
“There’s a lot of work to do besides just cut a cheque.”
Iveson, in his blog post, said there are three possibilities for convention space management. “Shaw goes to Northlands, Expo Centre goes to EEDC, or you form a new company to manage both.”
“I’ve spoken at length with board and management from both organizations about that and I think everybody understands that there’s value in making a smooth transition to what ever the new reality is, and everybody’s ready for a spectrum of possibilities there.”
“I think we can perform better there. I think we can attract more events, more tourism spend, and more investment in our city and create more jobs in that process. Our best position to do that is to bring the two together. But I think it’s important to maintain an open mind right now about what the best holding company is for that.”
That synergy of tournament hockey at the former Rexall Place, and big trade shows at the Expo Centre should be enough incentive for a developer to come on board with a major hotel.
“That’s very good for the convention centre, which is not just new jobs at the hotel but it’s net new business,” Iveson said.
“Because if you get a big trade show with 5,000-10,000 people, which we can accommodate, this is the largest trade show centre west of Toronto, and we haven’t leveraged it sufficiently. If we can get a hotel in there we can increase its volume considerably which will go a long way to dealing with the deficit that Northlands is currently dealing with both operationally and paying the mortgage on it.”
Also part of the four part motion, creation of a new area redevelopment plan for the 160 acres, including options for the horse barns and racetrack, and Northlands should get a year deferral on paying their debt to the city. That debt sits at $48 million.
Iveson said he wants to have the gist of the motion out there so the public, including Northlands will have time to consider it beforehand.