EDMONTON — Since 1974, the building currently known as Rexall Place has been at the heart of hockey in Edmonton. But times are quickly changing, and Northlands is looking to forge a new future as the Oilers, and the concert industry prepare to move on.
“I don’t think the conversations were as easy the last seven or five years as they are today,” Northlands president and CEO told Global News in a wide-ranging, exclusive interview.
“We had different leadership at the City of Edmonton, we had different leadership at OEG (Oilers Entertainment Group), we had different leadership at Northlands,” Reid explained, as he reflected on the “contentious scenario” of the past.
It’s a past where relations between the Katz Group and Northlands broke down, as the downtown arena deal moved ahead.
Reid sat down for a one-on-one at centre ice at Rexall Place, at what’s been the centre of Northlands’ world.
Global News: What happened? What came together to change the tone in the conversation?
Tim Reid: “I think you ended up with new leadership at Northlands, new leadership at OEG and new leadership at the City of Edmonton and I would say we may have got to this place with the previous leadership, but that was a catalyst for change.”
GN: Do you think there was, for lack of a better term, an arrogance within the organization for resisting to change?
TR: “What I know is the loss of revenue associated with Rexall Place represents $9.2 million and those that were before me —; I can’t speak on their position —; but I will say if somebody said, ‘They’re going to take $9.2 million earnings away from you Northlands,’ I would have fought for it, too.
Would I have done things differently? I don’t know if I would have changed a great deal, but I probably would have stopped fighting sooner. At some point, I think we needed to realize that there was a decision that was made in the best interest of edmontonians. That decision had consequences to Northlands. We had to find a new way.”
READ MORE: New $165M vision for Northlands includes 7-sheet ice facility, outdoor concert space
That new way is called Vision 2020, a $165-million plan to rebrand Rexall as the Northlands Ice Coliseum with seven sheets of ice to serve community needs, an expansion of the Expo Centre’s Hall D into a 5,000 seat arena, and an urban festival site at the south end of the grounds replacing the horse track.
READ MORE: ‘2016 will be our last year in the horse racing business’: Northlands
The concept will be debated at city council on Tuesday.