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Oilers refine arena plan after public meetings

New Edmonton Arena{jathumbnail off}

The planning for a new Edmonton Oilers (NHL) arena has been altered slightly — and probably in some very good ways — after team officials held a series of community meetings to explain the plan and solicit input.

While it doesn’t sound like much has changed in terms of anything physical — past a new emphasis on green features, something that was lacking in the past — the positioning of the arena in the greater Edmonton area is different. Instead of being a monolistic entertainment district, Oilers officials say they want to make sure the new arena is a part of what’s still a borderline downtown — but one that shows some definite signs of life. Wise move: newer arenas like Xcel Energy Center and MTS Centre work because they’re totally integrated into a downtown area, either by location or skyway/walkway access (or both in the case of Winnipeg).

And the arena is now being sold as a multipurpose facility, not just the home of the Oilers. That means adding more dock and storage space so two different events can be held back-to-back, and it means putting in an expanded curtain system to make the arena more intimate for smaller events and retractable seating for big events.

A new downtown arena is still a hard sell in Edmonton: There’s a lot of folks who like the familiarity of Rexall Place and prize things like a sea of parking. And a large part of this is not knowing what they’re missing in what’s turned out to be an old and outdated facility — which means the Oilers have more selling to do.

RELATED STORIES: Katz ups arena offer to $200M; city willing to talk ; Edmonton: New downtown arena financially feasible Katz: I will spend $100 million on new downtown arena; Edmonton: Cheaper to renovate than to build new downtown arena; Oilers arena zoning hearing delayed; Katz group submits arena application to Edmonton

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