Edmontonians can count the remaining days on their fingers as January 16 approaches. Without doubt, a curious audience will be lining up that morning for a special internal viewing of a massive construction project as it races towards completion in the fall. The city is abuzz with talk of a brand new arena that will predictably become legendary, changing downtown Edmonton dramatically. Rogers Arena, surpassing its function as a new home for the city's well-loved Oilers, is designed to impress. The arena, described by city representatives as "stunning", replete with 18,500 seats, will outshine the smaller Rexall Place that has been in the city spotlight for decades.
Downtown Investment is taking off
The building is in accordance with a noticeable, growing trend of green building planning in Edmonton. It is the first NHL facility to be certified as a green building. But in developer's minds, this project isn't just about hockey. Journalists have long since reported on construction of the 24,000 square foot "winter garden", an entrance to Rogers Place, built over 104th Avenue. It links the arena with MacEwan station. An interview reveals that according to Bob Black, executive vice president of the Edmonton Arena Corporation, this development will be the host site of not only sports events but "arts and cultural" events as well. He says this space alone will draw huge crowds of visitors. On the floor of the garden, there will be a mosaic designed by Alex Janvier, a "respected Aboriginal artist"who "captures the spirit of the city, its history, and its people". These are the hopes and promises that Paul Moulton of the Edmonton Arts Council made public, announcing that other public art will be showcased too. Moulton explains, "Fundamentally, the winter garden will be a people place, and a vibrant and active hub in the arena district." The zone has been described in the Edmonton Sun as a "gathering space".
Reports are accompanied by excited internet chatter and journalists offering their two cents worth about what all of this will mean for Edmonton, especially for its downtown area. The erection of the arena provides the basis for an enthusiastic motion to shift all of the city's action downtown. The Katz Group first partnered with the City of Edmonton to build the arena. Katz Group also partnered with the WAM Development Group. Daryl Katz envisaged grand developments for the surrounding area, which is to be formally renamed the "Ice District". Major additions will come to pass in two phases, one taking place in 2016 and the other between 2017 and 2020. Among the developments in the first phase is the winter garden, a community arena, a massive Civic Tower, and a casino, described by Gateway casinos as "upscale". The second phase will involve the erection of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Canada, the "Stantec Tower". Residences will include "luxurious condos", some located above a new four star hotel, declared as the first in thirty years. A public plaza is also planned, and a Cineplex Cinema is in the works. Massive increases in retail space open doors for partnerships that have already taken place. These partnerships will give birth to a surge of fine restaurants and other culinary endeavours. Boutique spaces where shoppers will likely congregate have been planned as well. The Community Rink will draw university hockey players and other hockey teams as well as the public and can hold 1,000 spectators. 79 % of Edmontonians "saw the Community Rink as a valued recreation opportunity". Bob Nicholson, vice-chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, summed up the expected future of downtown Edmonton when he assured the CBC that "any type of entertainment, any type of music, any type of sport; if it's something this city wants we are certainly going to be in the process of trying to get it downtown." Edmontonians are speculating on considerable changes to the downtown atmosphere . Polls show that many Edmontonians feel that tourism will increase as a result of the arena being built. In terms of housing, a report in The Globe and Mail states that "housing north of the arena targets students and lower-income tenants, which couldn’t be more opposite to what’s arising south of it in the Ice District". In some areas, rent prices are expected to change but "not drastically".