A look inside the closed Edmonton Coliseum

Largely vacant but home to a few mice and bats, Edmonton's fabled coliseum will be demolished in a few years for about $35 million.  (Paige Parsons/CBC - photo credit)

Largely vacant but home to a few mice and bats, Edmonton’s fabled coliseum will be demolished in a few years for about $35 million. (Paige Parsons/CBC – photo credit)

Officials from the city of Edmonton allowed the media to take a final look inside the 49-year-old’s arena at the Coliseum on Friday.

The Roman-inspired rink opened in 1974 and has long been home to the Edmonton Oilers, including during the team’s most successful era in the 1980s.

It was also the site of countless concerts, shows, and rodeos until it closed in late 2017.

While most of the fine memorabilia has been removed, the banquettes are littered with stacks of old seat cushions.

Debris – construction material for concert posters and popcorn bags – is scattered inside the building.

CLOCK | The end of an era as Coliseum shutters

Yellow caution tape is scattered and there is a lot of dust and dirt on the surfaces.

The Oilers locker room was stripped of its lockers and any leftover souvenirs from the glory days.

However, the wash and shower area smells strongly of the past.

Mice and bats have taken up residence in the old arena, city officials say.

What else is happening inside?

Few. The last event held at the arena was the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November 2017.

For a time, the Edmonton Police Service tactical team trained in the building, but after it was officially decommissioned, it has been unused for anything.

Maintaining and securing the property costs the city about $1.5 million a year. For maintenance reasons, the building will continue to be heated.

Although several groups proposed different ideas for repurposing the Colosseum, the city council eventually decided to demolish it. The task is expected to cost $35 million.

When does the demolition start?

The funds approved by the city council in December 2022 will be available from 2025.

Before the building can be demolished, officials say it will take about a year to strip the structure of everything inside, such as any remaining wiring, appliances and furniture, and then the hazardous substances will be addressed.

“Asbestos, mold, lead paint – all these things that were common in the 1970s – we have to remove and remediate,” Pascale Ladouceur, head of the city’s infrastructure planning and design department, said on Friday.

Bats that live in the arena are protected by wildlife laws, Ladouceur said, so the city plans to remove and relocate the winged creatures at an appropriate time in their reproductive cycle.

Will they blow up the Colosseum?

No. The old rink will undergo a much less dramatic “mechanical demolition,” according to Ladouceur.

“It’s a lot of concrete, it’s not a good environment for an implosion,” she said, adding that it would be difficult to manage the debris in such close proximity to the LRT and major thoroughfares.

This means heavy equipment is used to rip the concrete structure to pieces.

She said work would likely begin in 2026 and that no contractor had yet been selected.

What will become of the country?

The city council has approved a plan to convert the site on which the arena sits and the surrounding lot into an urban village, complete with a new LRT station and mixed commercial and residential space. The project will take 20 to 30 years to complete and will be built in stages.

Lovey Grewal, project manager for the city’s Edmonton Exhibition Lands redevelopment project, said the site where the arena now sits is expected to one day become a public plaza.

However, unlike some other development areas like Blatchford, the city plans to hand over the reins to private developers to do the work.

“We will parcel out medium to large sized parcels of developing land and market these to the private development community so ultimately it is market-led development,” Grewal said.

The first two properties to be developed – currently a soccer field and a gravel parking lot near Borden Park – will go up for sale in a few weeks, he said.


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