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Architects unveil new sketches, details on proposed arena for NHL Oilers

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

EDMONTON - Details became clearer Wednesday on what the new home for the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers would look like.

But the question of how much it would cost and who would pay remained as fuzzy as ever.

Architects unveiled for city councillors design sketches and a conceptual video walk-through of the proposed $450-million facility in the city's downtown.

The sketches, leaked to the media weeks earlier, show a futuristic building of wavy lines and curves in zinc, masonry and lots and lots of glass.

The building's shape is meant to resemble an oil drop—to honour the name of the team and the province's core industry—but practical design functions leave it looking more like a bulbous, backwards letter P.

The rink would be inside the circle of the P. A grand foyer would jut out in a straight line below.

Scott Ralston, an executive with U.S.-based 360 Architecture, said the rink would represent the fluidity of oil, the speed of hockey and the wavy lines of drifting snow.

"The image of the building is really a manifestation of trying to blend all of these inspirations," Ralston said after the presentation at city hall.

"We're trying to convey an iconic landmark building in downtown Edmonton ... that will be a catalyst for future (surrounding) development."

The goal, he said, would be to integrate the rink into the community so it didn't become a shuttered barn that only came alive on hockey nights.

To that end, the land beside the facility would have a community hockey rink and three levels of shops and retail businesses—all connected to the main rink.

There would be 18,400 seats for Oilers games. Some tickets would be sold for spots on the catwalk in the area normally reserved for media.

There would be close to 9,000 seats in the lower bowl, stacked at a higher angle to give fans a better view of the action.

There would be clubs, bistros and luxury seating—even a space to hold beach volleyball tournaments if so desired—along with underground parking for just under 500.

"It shows it's an incredibly dynamic building," Mayor Stephen Mandel said.

"People need to look at this in the light of other buildings that are going to be built around it."

Ralston stressed the design is akin to a first draft and a lot of creative details still need to be ironed out.

Council was also told the financial picture remains unclear with a final tally on total costs not available until next January.

Last fall, city councillors voted 10-3 to share the cost of the rink with Oilers owner Daryl Katz. Dissenting councillors said the city struck a bad bargain out of fear Katz would move the team.

Katz has never directly said he'd move the five-time Stanley Cup champions, but has also said he won't see the team play indefinitely in Rexall Place, leaving councillors to connect the dots.

Under the deal, Katz is to pay $100 million. Another $125 million would come from a ticket tax and the city would pay another $125 million.

Katz would run the building, pay for the upkeep and keep all profits for 11 months out of the year. He would also get naming rights.

The Oilers are the only NHL team that doesn't get non-hockey-related revenue from its building.

It's not known where the final $100 million is to come from. Both the federal and provincial governments have repeatedly said they will not directly subsidize what they view as a private venture.

Mandel said Wednesday he's still hopeful and doesn't need to look to a Plan B.

"We'll find ways to get money from our provincial partners," he said. "I believe in the province's support for the city."

Councillors have already been told the city's share will be far above $125 million.

Another $57 million is to be spent by taxpayers to build a light-rail transit extension to the rink, a pedestrian corridor and an above-ground walkway over the main avenue in front.

The proposed community rink would add another $21 million.

City officials estimated last fall that when borrowing and land purchase costs are factored in the final tally would be more than $305 million.

The plan is to have construction begin early next year.

The rink is to replace the aging Rexall Place, which has been the home of the Oilers since their World Hockey Association days of the 1970s.

Built in 1974, it's the second-oldest rink in the NHL. The oldest is the arena where the New York Islanders play.


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