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Ice District taking shape after years of construction

When you look at the Ice District today, it’s strange to think that none of it existed just eight years ago.

Back in 2014, much of the land was either sitting vacant as surface parking lots or was under construction.

Today, the area boasts countless amenities, many of which have just opened in the last few months.

There’s an off-leash dog park, a free public skating rink in the plaza, the Banquet and Canadian Icehouse bars, the Loblaws City Market, the JW Marrriott, Braven restaurant, Stantec tower, a new National Bank, the Oilers Team Store, a cannabis shop, and a liquor store.

READ MORE: 5 years later, Edmonton’s ICE District keeps progressing

But the newest addition of all is the fan park on the site of the old Baccarat casino. The casino was fenced off and closed for years, finally being demolished in 2020.

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The site has now been transformed into a ticketed outdoor activity hub by the Oilers Entertainment group, currently boasting an Oilers snow maze, ice slides and a small hockey rink.

“This is definitely going to be a four season space, this fan park. It’s right in the heart of Ice District so there’ll be everything from ball hockey, community events, sporting events, concerts,” said OEG’s Kevin Rapanos.

All of the amenities are attracting people, like Candace Heck and Jamie Scott, who live in south Edmonton, to come downtown.

They wanted to see what the Ice District Plaza ice was like.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here in the winter for the rink so it’s actually really nice. There are a couple other people skating,” Heck said.

“I think it’s awesome to see all the different restaurants and all the things to see and do, all these people out here,” Scott added.

Downtown councillor Anne Stevenson said in addition to drawing in people from elsewhere in Edmonton looking for something fun to do, it also encourages people to live in the heart of the city.

READ MORE: 2 new bars to open in Edmonton’s Ice District

“Having diversity of entertainment options downtown is what’s so exciting to see. So now there’s really something for everyone who’s keen to come and explore,” she said.

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The councillor loves how the fan park has been designed using an empty space.

“It really shows how creative we can be with land that isn’t going to be developed right away. I imagine one day there will be high rises on that site, but for now there’s no reason for it to sit vacant and derelict.”

The Ice District is also a destination for visitors like Taylor Maine. He routinely comes to Edmonton from Calgary and now chooses to stay at the JW Marriott.

The centrally located off-leash dog park kitty-corner from the hotel is a big selling feature for him, as he brings his dog Alex Trebark along on his work trips.

“It’s great to have this little park to actually take her down and have a run, go pee.”

Maine was pleasantly surprised by all the nearby winter activities.

“It was nice to see and be in the environment. You stay outside with the dog a little longer because of it too. Its nice to see everybody out, see all the faces.”

It may have taken some time, but the promised transformation of the area is apparent.

“Over the years we’ve seen it come together, come to fruition. We’re very proud and happy to help with the revitalization of Edmonton and especially the downtown core,” Rapanos said.

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“It marks a moment in the development of Ice District that we’re pretty proud of. We hope Edmontonians will come down and enjoy everything there is.”

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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