Edmonton is cozying up to its image as a subarctic outpost by branding its long-awaited dream of a rejuvenated downtown with a bone-chilling identity: Ice District.
The $2.5-billion entertainment quarter will be anchored by the rink that will play host to Connor McDavid and the Oilers starting in the 2016-17 NHL season.
"We don't have to apologize for being a winter city," Scott McKeen, an Edmonton city councillor, said at a Monday news briefing that included a slick video presentation, a display of five replica Stanley Cups and elaborate ice carvings. "We want to honour that and exploit it. If the name gets out there, I'll be thrilled."
Bob Nicholson, chief executive and vice-chair of the Oilers Entertainment Group, said a deliberate decision was made not to attach a corporate name to the entertainment corridor that will cover 25 acres in the city centre.
"The name represents winter and winter sports and hockey, but is meant to say something about the whole district, and not just an arena," Mr. Nicholson said. "It's crisp and it's clean, and it's going to capture the imagination of people in Edmonton and around the world."
Construction on the $480-million arena, to seat 18,641 fans, began in March of 2014. It will be called Rogers Place and the cost is being shared by the city and team owner Daryl Katz. In addition, the Rexall pharmacy chain owner has invested $2-billion in what developers are calling the largest mixed-use sports and entertainment district in Canada.
The project includes high-rises with 1,000 residential units, 1.3 million square feet of office space in skyscrapers that will rank among the tallest buildings in Western Canada, a luxury hotel and a public plaza with an outdoor skating rink, casino, restaurants, retail outlets, child-care centre and pharmacy. A public park is planned, to be built on top of a movie theatre complex and grocery store, with an adjacent transit station under construction with rail links throughout the city.
"There is really nothing like this in North America, and you can probably make an argument for anywhere in the world," Glenn Scott, a senior vice-president for the Katz Group, said. "It's really a city within a city. It's a home run for Edmonton."
The Ice District arose from the need for a hockey arena to replace 41-year-old Rexall Place, the second-oldest rink in the NHL behind Madison Square Garden. Conversation surrounding the need for a new facility to house the Oilers began nearly a decade ago, with the project made possible when the city purchased a former rail yard at the edge of downtown not far from Edmonton's bustling little Chinatown in 2011.
The deal languished for four years and survived a public tiff with the city, when it was discovered that Katz was engaged in conversations with officials in Seattle seeking an NHL team to call their own.
There was no hint of any lingering animosity during Monday's news briefing, which was hosted by the Oilers Entertainment Group, Katz Group and the WAM Development Group. The latter is the Katz Group's real estate subsidiary.
The announcement also comes on the heels of the Oilers using the first choice in the NHL draft to select McDavid, the most highly regarded prospect in a generation.
Only 18 years old and already signed to a three-year contract worth an estimated $11.25-million (U.S) including salary and bonuses, McDavid scored five goals in a rookie scrimmage on July 6 that attracted 7,300 fans to Rexall Place. That heightened McDavidmania in Edmonton, where fans celebrated five Stanley Cups between 1984-'90 but not a single one since then. It has been nine years since the team reached the playoffs, the longest drought in the NHL.
"I thought that the new rink may be called Connor McDavidland," Mr. McKeen, the city councillor, said. "But it will still be great."
Kirk Seton, a brand-identity specialist in Calgary and avowed Flames fan, has no complaints with the name chosen for Edmonton's new entertainment corridor.
"I sort of like Ice District," Mr. Seton said. "It's about living, working and playing there, and I think a lot of different avenues can be taken with that. Whenever I hear about Edmonton's new arena, I get jealous. We still have the old, sickly Saddledome."