It’s the same old tale of trying to get a new arena built for a team or else we’ll play somewhere else city-wise. Today, I’m talking about the Edmonton Oilers. Yes, the franchise where Wayne Gretzky began playing in the NHL after the Racers of Indianapolis folded mid-season. Yes, the franchise that represents Canada’s oil-rich city. Yes, the Oilers are asking for a new downtown arena.
What the Edmonton Oilers are asking for is an arena that costs one billion dollars to replace Rexall Place. The City of Edmonton would be required to pay $400 Million of that cost. The new arena would take 18 months to build and would be located on Baccarat Casino Island, which would more people in for hockey and gambling.
The Oilers have played at Rexall Place since the franchise played in the World Hockey Association when it was known as the Northlands Coliseum. It’s had a few name changes before, first becoming the Edmonton Coliseum in 1994 and then the Skyreach Centre in 1998. The current nametag of the arena would be placed in the middle of the 2003-2004 season. While it is one of the oldest arenas for the NHL, it has been upgraded and remodeled consistancy to keep up with the times.
Today, the Rexall Place is also home to the Edmonton Rush in the National Lacrosse League and the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
Is it worth a new arena to keep the Oilers in Edmonton? While the last hockey team to relocate was the Hartford Whalers, Canada has lost two NHL franchise in the 1990’s (Quebec Nordiques and the Winnipeg Jets) with the same issue about new arenas. Those teams moved south to the United States.
If they do move, at least they are staying in Canada and not moving into warmer climates. It’s tough for me to say what I want to happen, because I want to see Edmonton keep their five-time Stanley Cup Champs. It’s where Gretzky became a household name in the eyes of hockey fans. At the same time, the Nordiques had a fairly successful run in the NHL (not in terms of Stanley Cups though.) I want to see Quebec and Winnipeg to have teams again, but I don’t want to see a current Canadian franchise lose their home.
In January 2011, there will be a consultation report released about the new arena. Will it pass?
Until next time,