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Edmonton: Cheaper to renovate than to build new downtown arena

Edmonton OilersThe cost of renovating Rexall Place is lower than it was estimated to be three years ago, which is good news for Edmonton Oilers fans who don’t want to see the NHL team move to a new downtown arena.

Updated cost estimates peg the renovation costs at $190 million, down from the 2007 estimate of $250 million. This would bring the 36-year-old arena up to modern standards and add the sorts of amenities — wider concourses, club space — found in newer arenas. The number comes from a city councillor working with Northlands, the agency that runs Rexall Place.

Of course, the new cost estimate is a double-edged sword: the estimated cost of a new downtown arena has been decreased to around $250 million. Both cost estimates were lowered because of the decreased labor and borrowing costs these days when compared to 2007.

And, of course, those lowered borrowing costs will benefit the Katz Group, as they work toward a billion-dollar downtown development that includes a new arena. The next two weeks will be crucial for arena planning in Edmonton: there’s not been a lot of rancor within the city over a new arena (Northlands officials have been supportive of a new downtown arena if money can be raised), and the only big point of contention so far is the level of any city contribution to a downtown project.

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