By Jan. 1, the City of Edmonton will have taken over management of the EXPO Centre and permanently closed the Coliseum.

In a merger that combines administration and marketing between the Shaw Conference Centre and EXPO Centre, the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), an entity wholly owned by the city, will begin managing the two venues on Jan. 1.

“Originally we wanted the two conference centres to cooperate and work together. It was in the city’s best interest to have them work together rather than be in competition,” said Coun. Tony Caterina.

The merger was announced Aug. 29, after council heard recommendations for the EXPO Centre in a private session. The Northlands board has been in private discussions with the city over the organization’s future. Mayor Don Iveson said the EXPO Centre will have its own staff.

Soon the EXPO Centre and the Shaw Conference Centre will be working together. | Kate Wilson

The solution of merging the conference centres came from a report requested by city council, in which three options for the EXPO Centre were presented.

“Either the Shaw Centre would take over EXPO or vice versa. The third option was to have both run by a third party,” Caterina said.

Caterina noted the city will assess the outcome of the new arrangement over the next few years.

“We still have the third party option,” he said.

City council voted to close Northlands Coliseum at a Sept. 13 council meeting.

“The decision to permanently close the Coliseum reflects an ongoing commitment to use taxpayers’ money responsibly in all questions about the status and upkeep of the facility,” said the city in a news release.

On Sept. 11, the city signed a memorandum of understanding with Northlands to transition Northlands Park to the city by the end of June 2018, or 30 days after racing is no longer licensed there.

The city and Northlands have stated they see positive outcomes for Northlands and surrounding neighbourhoods.

“The plan will leverage local revitalization initiatives, such as the Avenue Initiative and Borden Park upgrades, to continue improving liveability for residents, businesses, and visitors while also updating the vision for city-building in the area,” stated the city’s website.

Northlands has significant upcoming changes in the new year. | Kate Wilson

The Northlands board sees the change as a way to focus more on agri-food innovation. In a Sept. 13 press statement, the board asked all involved to respect the impact on its 2,800 employees and 1,500 volunteers.

“We look forward to returning to the site to host Northlands signature festivals in K-Days and Farmfair International,” it stated. “Our organization is optimistic for the future and will be a provincial leader in agriculture, food, and events.”

Agreements are in progress for Northlands to continue hosting K-Days and Farmfair International for the next five years at minimum.

On Jan. 1, 2018, the city will close the Coliseum and assume responsibility for it. It stated, “The future of the building will be considered through the Area Redevelopment planning process.”

Further engagements and analysis are planned for late 2017 and into 2018. The public and city council can expect a report early next year.