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Coliseum

Aerial view of the ColiseumThe Edmonton Exhibition Association (EEA), marked a turning point in its level of ambition when it constructed the Coliseum in 1974. An idea to build such a spectacular building had interested the organization’s directors for some time, but finally sprung to life when it caught the attention of three individuals who would become the Coliseum’s primary source of creative energy.

Three EEA members, President Jack Bailey, Vice-President Harry Hole, and Second Vice-President Ted Mildon were about to be ensconced in a lively and challenging project that would ultimately broaden the EEA’s scope of community involvement.

Performances at the ColiseumAs early as 1957, proposals to build a large structure that could house sporting, entertainment, and business activities had been tabled at municipal discussions that the EEA was privy to. An "Omniplex" and other such facilities were debated, but failed to yield any definite actions. After years of ongoing brainstorming, it was the EEA that finally produced a successful idea guided by a study it had commissioned from Woods Gordon Co.

Conclusions from the study pointed towards the Coliseum’s creation as a pivotal part of redevelopment work. Bearing in mind the recent formation of the World Hockey Association and the Edmonton Oilers hockey club, the EEA board voted in 1972, to go ahead with the large-scale venture in the hopes that the enterprises would complement each other. It was Bailey, Hole, and Mildon that voluntarily took the lead in making the project come to fruition.

Commemorative statueUnderstanding the potentially far-reaching implications of the venture, the City of Edmonton, and the provincial and federal government became funding partners for the Coliseum by providing grants, land use, lottery funds, and other forms of support. All of these relationships facilitated the momentous task of bringing the Coliseum to life. Celebrating the opening was an Edmonton Oilers hockey game on 10 November 1974. A performance by Stevie Wonder drew huge crowds only days later.

Monster truck showBailey, Hole, and Mildon were undoubtedly proud about building the Coliseum. Since its inception, it has been used for Northlands Park community events as well as for externally organized ones. In the tradition of the Livestock Pavilion which had served as a sports and cultural venue, the Coliseum hosted Edmonton Oilers hockey games, the World Junior Hockey Championships, Labatt Brier curling, the Harlem Globetrotters, World Wrestling Federation, Luciano Pavarotti, The Who, Johnny Cash, and many others. Even trade shows and circuses have made appearances.

40th Annual NHL All-Star Game The Coliseum brought much growth and vibrancy to Northlands Park. It provided new ways of making entertainment available to North-central Albertans and emphasized the organization’s role in the community. Although the building changed management after being leased by the Peter Pocklington Financial Corporation, it retained its role in offering a wide-ranging menu of activities.

So far in its existence, the Coliseum, originally named for its design that harkens back to the great Roman structure, was subsequently renamed the Edmonton Coliseum, Skyreach Centre, and finally, Rexall Place, as it is currently known. 

Featured Video: Commonwealth Games and Coliseum's construction Past Northlands Park president Harry Hole on the link between the Commonwealth Games and the Coliseum's construction. Watch Now

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