SBJ/20101115/This Week's Issue

Edmonton eyes big-name architect for arena


The Katz Group wants the arena to be “a real
statement piece of architecture.” Rossetti and
Populous have done preliminary work.

The Edmonton Oilers are negotiating a contract with an “internationally renowned” architect to be lead designer for a new arena to anchor a downtown entertainment district, according to a proposal issued in late October.

Officials with the Katz Group, a company owned by Oilers owner Daryl Katz that is managing the project on his behalf, declined to identify whom they are talking to until the deal is signed. That individual, specified as the design architect, will be one of three design partners as spelled out in the request for qualifications issued by Icon Venue Group, the suburban Denver-based consultant and owner’s representative.

The other two parties are the arena architect, a company established in sports, plus a local design firm responsible for coordinating the plans in accordance with Alberta building codes.

The Katz Group’s plan to hire a lead designer who does not specialize in sports is a “reflection of our desire to develop an inspirational landmark building in Edmonton,” said Bob Black, the firm’s executive vice president of sports and entertainment and project lead.

“We want the arena to be a real statement piece of architecture,” Black said.

Officials recognize hiring an iconic architect in addition to using a traditional sports architect paired with a local firm will result in “some degree of uplift in cost” for the overall project, but it is “an investment worth making,” Black said.

The Katz Group estimates it will cost about $450 million to build an 18,400-seat arena and an attached practice rink on 16 acres the firm controls in the heart of downtown Edmonton. To date, no public money has been approved to help finance construction. Daryl Katz has committed to spending $100 million for the arena and an additional $100 million for the surrounding development.

A series of public hearings began last week to discuss the issue in greater detail.

Big picture, Katz Group sees a mixed-use development tied to the arena, with hotels, condominiums, restaurants and nightclubs, office towers, and student housing supporting three local colleges. Principals have studied L.A. Live, the Arena District in Columbus and the Gaslamp Quarter near Petco Park in San Diego.

“There are a number of different examples of sports venues used as a catalyst for broader development,” said Jim Low, president of C&H Management, a second firm owned by Daryl Katz in charge of the arena’s planning, design and development. “We are not picking any one of those models. It will be built on what has [worked for others] for a ‘Made in Edmonton’ project.”

Katz Group was scheduled to issue a request for proposal last week for the arena architect to firms shortlisted from the request for qualifications. A final decision on who will fill that role and the local firm is set for Dec. 10.

Populous and Rossetti are two sports architects that have done preliminary work for the Oilers to frame the project before starting the formal process for selecting a design team.

The Oilers play at Rexall Place, a 36-year-old arena that is part of the Northlands complex. Katz informed city officials this past summer that he is not interested in playing in a renovated facility.

The club is targeting January 2012 to break ground and an arena opening date in fall 2014, Black said.

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