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Oilers pitch twin arenas at Baccarat Casino site

The Edmonton Oilers are pitching a pair of arenas at downtown Baccarat Casino, and Mayor Stephen Mandel is promising a financing plan in the next month. But financing an ambitious project will be a challenging sell for Mandell, as well as convincing many that downtown is a better location for a facility than next to Rexall Place.

The arena picture in Edmonton is slowly becoming clearer, as the Edmonton Oilers (NHL) are pitching a twin-arena complex next to Baccarat Casino in downtown Edmonton, and Mayor Stephen Mandel says a funding plan for a city-owned facility should be released by the end of the month.

The Oilers and owner Katz Group say they want to see a twin-sheet facility: one arena would have upwards of 18,000 seats for NHL games and 20,000 seats for concerts, while the other would seat 8,000 and be used for Oilers practices, smaller events and (we presume) Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) games. This is still very much a conceptual plan, with no price tags in place.

Indeed, the debate over an arena will need to come on two different levels. First, there's the whole concept of downtown housing an arena; many in Edmonton would rather see a new arena on the outskirts of town, perhaps next to Rexall Place. But proponents of a downtown arena point to studies that show a downtown arena would have a much greater economic impact than a suburban arena would.

And, given the financing method Mandel is reportedly looking at, a suburban arena would not work. Mandel says he's open to the idea of a community revitalization levy to help pay for the arena, which kicks in when there's increased development in the area. Whether it's enough to pay for a new arena — which will cost around $400 million by time all is said and done — remains to be seen.

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