Sport excellence venue pitched for Edmonton's Expo Centre

·3 min read
The Expo Centre in northeast Edmonton is currently being used as a COVID-19 mass vaccination centre. (edmontonexpocentre.com - image credit)
The Expo Centre in northeast Edmonton is currently being used as a COVID-19 mass vaccination centre. (edmontonexpocentre.com - image credit)

A group of sports organizations wants to transform Edmonton's Expo Centre into a multi-sport training-and-event venue, Edmonton city councillors heard at a meeting Monday.

The collaboration, driven by Alberta Athletics, Alberta Basketball Association and Volleyball Alberta, pitched the idea of a Center of Sport Excellence to city council's executive committee.

The vision calls for turning halls A, B, and C into courts and an indoor hydraulic track that could convert to a field.

Paul Sir, executive director of the Alberta Basketball Association, told councillors that the Expo Centre is an ideal location as the city's northeast needs more recreation space for youth and adult leagues.

The centre would bring in local crowds all week and generate money, Sir said.

"This would become a centre that would drive the moms, dads, grandpas coming in, watching their kids play, going and having something to eat, paying for parking, those sorts of things," he said.

'The shell is there, ready to go'

The centre would double as a high-performance sports training and competition centre, expanding the sports tourism industry by attracting visitors who would spend money at hotels, restaurants and shops.

"All this can happen in the Expo Centre," Sir said. "The shell is there, ready to go."

Hall A would see six removable hardwood volleyball courts, which could be used for other sports and activities, while Hall B would get nine basketball courts, including two wooden courts for international and recreation play, Sir said.

Hall C would be a multi-use area with the hydraulic track and a turf that would drop down with netting, accommodating sports like baseball, football and soccer, said James Rosnau, with Athletics Alberta.

"That track can allow us to do speed, power and endurance training for every other sport," Rosnau said. "It truly becomes a multi-sport training venue with the ability to obviously attract events."

Hall C could be converted from a sports arena to a trade show venue to continue to host automobile and boat shows and possibly events like Farmfair International, Rosnau said.

'Exciting opportunity'

The group estimates it'll cost about $14 million to repurpose the building and generate about the same amount of money through renting court space and hosting events.

Mayor Don Iveson said it could be part of the city's commitment to rejuvenating neighbourhoods with amenities.

"This is a really exciting opportunity for the city, working with partners in a thoughtful way to develop this site in ways that recognize its heritage."

Several partners are involved with the project, including the Edmonton Sport Council, City of Edmonton Live Active, Free Play for Kids and Explore Edmonton.

They're asking the city for $77,000 to complete a viability study.

Councillors asked administration to explore funding possibilities and report back in May.

The Expo Centre has been used for concerts, trade shows and, during the pandemic, a shelter and a mass vaccination centre.

Rethinking Exhibitions Lands

The Expo is part of the city's Exhibition Lands, which includes 30 buildings over about 12 acres the city plans to redevelop over the next 30 years.

Councillors were reviewing the long-term strategy, outlined in a report called "Potential for Adaptive Reuse of Buildings on Exhibition Lands."

The land includes Northlands Coliseum, the former home of the Edmonton Oilers, which is slated to be demolished.

The city is not disclosing the cost of demolition, though an estimate three years ago was between $15 and $25 million.