Northlands has been an important part of Edmonton hockey since 1912, when the ag organization built a new arena and pavilion hall to replace Thistle Arena. Since then, junior and pro hockey has been played in Northland-controlled arenas — and the group wants a piece of the proposed new downtown arena, despite opposition from the Edmonton Oilers (NHL).
Edmonton’s movers and shakers have been associated with Northlands over the years; it was their participation that got Northlands into the arena biz in the first place, and it was their presence that got Rexall Place built to house the WHA’s Oilers way back when.
But this is a different era, one where teams successfully manage their arena bookings and management. In their arena proposal, the Oilers are clear on their intent on running a new downtown arena, but Northlands wants a place at the table: they say that with their experience running Rexall Arena they should have first crack at running a new downtown arena. Or, if they don’t have a shot at running the new arena, they want to continue running Rexall Place — with a city subsidy, of course. There’s not a city that can financially support two major arenas, and we’re not sure Edmonton is in a position to be the first.
The thing is, Northlands has nothing to offer in terms of capital, and it’s capital that Edmonton needs right now. No doubt Northlands could adequately run the arena, but sharing the proceeds after you’ve put $200 million toward a project isn’t the way to run a successful business. No doubt the Oilers will dig in their heels on the issue; the x factor is how much political power Northlands will bring to the battle.
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