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'Epicentre of energy': Ice District plaza ready to host major events, playoff parties


Ice District is finally ready to host its first major event, six years after promotional videos bragged about a public plaza featuring people, patios and playoffs.

Big screens, a stage and a mini-rink were all being erected in the plaza Wednesday, as Rogers Hometown Hockey heads to Edmonton this weekend.

"We talked about it for a long time, that this is the epicentre of energy, and so now it’s our job to bring it to life," said Tim Shipton of Oilers Entertainment Group.

With the Oilers holding down a playoff spot Wednesday, excitement is also building for what could happen if they make it.

"We’re going to program this thing to the hilt. We want this to be the place that people come before games, tailgating. There will be family activities, really bring it to life," he said.

The plaza is ready to start hosting, but construction in Ice District is far from over.

New restaurants, patios and stores still need to be added and another 16 storey office tower is planned, all with a completion target of 2025.

Even an early version of the plaza being complete is music to the ears of nearby entrepreneurs, the president of the Downtown Business Association said.

"The economic benefit of having that arena in our downtown, especially in the scenario where we’re heading into maybe a playoff run, it is massive," said Puneeta McBryan.

Two years of pandemic shutdowns, declining traffic and a rise in public disorder have been tough on businesses in the core, she said.

"I think a lot of that negativity that people might be feeling about downtown really does fall away once, all of a sudden, your streets and your businesses are full of people again," McBryan predicted

Ice District plaza on March 30, 2022. (Jeremy Thompson/CTV News Edmonton)

Making downtown a more lively and fun place to be was central to the district's vision all along, and a key element of the sales job that saw millions of public dollars spent to build Rogers Place.

The Oilers also spent hundreds of millions rebuilding the area, so team officials and local business owners are hoping those investments soon pay off for everyone.

"Downtown needs to get its mojo back, it needs to get its energy back and Ice District’s going to be a big part of that," Shipton said.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson Top Stories

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