Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In defence of this "old" barn...


Anyone read Andy's colossal post about Rexall Place over at BoA? He brings up a forgotten aspect for the civic-minded regarding the on-going debate over a new arena in Edmonton: tradition, a notion flogged by the team in ceremonies that often precede 4-0 losses to the Phoenix Coyotes. Rexall Place (nee Northlands Coliseum), with its many Oilers Cups from the dynastic 1980s, has already become a bit of a shrine to hockey history and a link to the past for many Oilers fans. So yeah, it's a wacky idea, and rather "out there" for a city that seems to pride itself on its ability to build South Edmonton Commons, but would it be so crazy to make Rexall Place the next Fenway or Wrigley Stadium of the NHL?

Adding to that, I'd like to point out two things:

1) According to Northlands' own Financial Statements from 2006, Rexall has a useful life of 50 years. Contrary to what Patrick LaForge says, Rexall is not even really "old" nor is it in any dire need to be mothballed anytime soon. There is plenty of time to make a decision on this matter.

2) In 2005's statements, there is reference to the "mechanical equipment" getting old and needing replacement, but not the building itself.

I think all of this got lost shortly after Northlands' only proposal thus far: a $250 million "renovation," which amounted to a donut wrapping the existing building. It was a non-starter right out of the gate. At that price, why not just rebuild the whole thing, right? Perhaps. But if Northlands had offered a cheaper alternative, in tens of millions, not hundreds, which addressed the actual needs of the property (like a new ice plant for instance, which couldn't be more than $10 million) rather than to pandering to their fickle marquee tenant that pays nothing, there would be something actually worth debating. At some point it became a matter of fact that a new building was needed in the first place.

Many new arena advocates have accused skeptics of "small-town thinking" and "not thinking big." To me, these are the same small-minded Babbitts that have run Edmonton's city planning for way too long, pathetically trying to keep up with the Joneses by rebuilding the United Centre with a Casino attached as if that's going to address downtown's needs. Meanwhile, there's a perfectly good arena with ample parking, a major arterial road and a LRT stop that leads to its doorstep. We know the city can't support two arenas because Northlands says so: Northlands VP Andrew Huntley says the Rexall will likely "be demolished" if a new building is successfully wedged into downtown (nothing says "revitalization" like a big pile of bricks at the end of Wayne Gretzky Drive, eh?).

Again, if this is all predicated on the idea that taxpayers are going to be funding this new arena in part or whole (which wouldn't surprise me: a web board dude countered my argument above with "...but we NEED an arena... I would gladly take a 10% jump in my property tax to help pay for this"). The building, like GM place or the Bell Centre, should be entirely privately funded, lest this city suddenly go all American-City-in-the-1990s and offer a whole lot of tax-paid something for what will amount to almost nothing for the local economy. People will still pull out the well-worn, dog-eared "the team will move" card, but you'd be have to be unfrozen from 1992 not to realize that the city has grown, the team makes more dough than 2/3 of the league, they play rent free and there a lot fewer destinations in the US where they could move; if the Oilers ultimately can't make it here then some other team will (and maybe they'd have better jerseys, too).

In the meantime, the City is actually holding the cards: an NHL-ready arena, free tenancy and the opportunity to spend hundreds of millions of its own dollars more wisely. It was Patrick LaForge who once said "what's good for Edmonton is good for the Oilers." It'd be nice to see that put to the test.

26 comments:

David S said...

It was Patrick LaForge who once said "what's good for Edmonton is good for the Oilers."

And now its "What's good for the Oilers is good for Edmonton."

The Truth said...

Do you not mean "What's good for Pat LaForge is good for Edmonton"?

Darien said...

Daryl Katz has Gretzky's blessing to buy the Oilers?

Rock Deputy said...

Instead of a new arena, the city should invest in an East Edmonton Common. There's a lot of shopping in Sherwood Park but is there a 50,000sq.ft. Cotton Ginny?

It's time we prioritised!

Art Vandelay said...

a web board dude countered my argument above with "...but we NEED an arena... I would gladly take a 10% jump in my property tax to help pay for this"
I wouldn't.

sacamano said...

Personally, I'm just worried about the anti-vitalization of the area around Northlands.

I'm already petrified walking around there. If we lose the arena and the collection of cheap hotels and strip clubs that it has attracted, what's left? It will be like Bogota.

DBO said...

I've been to the new arena in Minnesota, and the difference is huge. That is a beautiful arena, with restaurants, bars and tons of space so that there isn't crazy crowding during the intermission. The experience is fantastic, and having that kind of arena here would only be a good thing. I realize there is history in what is now Rexall, but a modern arena would only be a boon to the city and the hockey experience for everyone.

MetroGnome said...

"...but we NEED an arena... I would gladly take a 10% jump in my property tax to help pay for this"

In the words of Kent Brockman: I've said it before and I'll say it again...democracy just doesn't work.

grease trap said...

Why not just renovate the area around Rexall? Buy some of the property nearby, build up some nice places?

Also, as for the building itself, re-do a piece at a time. Need more room during intermissions? Build it during the summer. Need to add more skyboxes? The summer after that.

etc

They've already renovated the players' facilites. When all is said and done, you could have an arena that fills all the requirements in about five or six years time for a fraction of the cost of a brand new arena.

What's wrong with that?

Art Vandelay said...

...a modern arena would only be a boon to the city and the hockey experience for everyone.
There is no credible evidence for the former - but I enjoyed your anecdote about Minny; as for the latter, I'll take your word for it and invite you and your hockey-ticket buying friends to pay for it.
Respectfully,
A fed-up taxpayer

dubya said...

Literally. Crush.

Lord Bob said...

I'd gladly accept a 10% jump in that guy's property taxes to pay for a new arena too.

rickibear said...

Put in Toll booths on all the major access roads from: Stony, The Grove, St.Albert, The Fort, and Sherwood Park, Etc.

So all the none Edmonton Tax Paying F***s can contribute to the roads and Stadium which they will so greatly use.

Everyone is concerned by the oiler free ride.
There is a whole group of freeloaders that can help solve the problem.

Oilman said...

rickibear....I pay taxes in Spruce too...and I still have to pay for Oilers tickets......I'm willing to bet that you're an out of town oilpatch type that reaps the rewards for working in fort mac or grand prairie, but refuses to live there because it's too expensive and contributes not one red cent to their local gov't.....am I even close or am I way off?

McLea said...

but would it be so crazy to make Rexall Place the next Fenway or Wrigley Stadium of the NHL?

Isn't this an apples to oranges comparison? Can you really compare a hockey arena to a ball yard? Don't you think that's a bit of a stretch?

And I'd also like to point that I find it incredibly fitting that a bunch of yahoos in Toronto are lecturing the fine citizens of Edmonton on what they should and shouldn't spend their tax dollars on. Call me crazy, but I'm going to suggest that maybe this discussion should be limited to the actual stakeholders, and although Albertans have long grown accustomed to people Toronto telling us what to do, maybe you guys should acknowledge that the building of a new arena in Edmonton doesn't concern you in the slightest, and that maybe you should keep that in mind next time you feel compelled to share with your enlightened opinion with us.

mike w said...

Don't you think that's a bit of a stretch?

Uh, nope.

although Albertans have long grown accustomed to people Toronto telling us what to do

I got a chuckle out of that line. Did it ever occur to you that I still might care about my hometown? Or that I may move back some day?

Lord Bob said...

Put in Toll booths on all the major access roads from: Stony, The Grove, St.Albert, The Fort, and Sherwood Park, Etc.

So all the none Edmonton Tax Paying F***s can contribute to the roads and Stadium which they will so greatly use.


Edmonton is one of the, like, five cities in the world which sees thousands of people coming in every day to do business and contribute directly to the local economy and declares "this sucks!"

mike w said...

sees thousands of people coming in every day to do business

It just would be nice if they contributed in the way that actually counts for city planning and infrastructure:

...paying property taxes.

Pleasure Motors said...

Call me crazy, but I'm going to suggest that maybe this discussion should be limited to the actual stakeholders,

Well, Grabia, who inspired this post, still lives in Edmonton, but if you really insist:

DON'T SPEND ONE SINGLE DIME OF OUR MONEY ON A NEW ARENA, YOU ASSHOLES.

Lord Bob said...

It just would be nice if they contributed in the way that actually counts for city planning and infrastructure:

...paying property taxes.


So, if economic activity doesn't directly finance new hockey arenas... er, I mean, filling potholes... it's a bad thing?

mike w said...

Sure!

LittleFury said...

New year, same ol' mclea.

MikeP said...

"In the words of Kent Brockman: I've said it before and I'll say it again...democracy just doesn't work."

At least you know that Edmonton can't be communist like Mike Comrie says, else Art wouldn't have to worry about property taxes going up to pay for the arena. Instead, the government would seize his home, sell off or take everything valuable within, shoot his dog and charge him for the bullet, and then 20 years later you'd either wind up with a massive arena fifty times the size of what it really needs to be and populated exclusively by the party elite, or nothing at all and it would all be the fault of the damn Calgarians.

MikeP said...

"Call me crazy, but I'm going to suggest that maybe this discussion should be limited to the actual stakeholders, and although Albertans have long grown accustomed to people Toronto telling us what to do, maybe you guys should acknowledge that the building of a new arena in Edmonton doesn't concern you in the slightest, and that maybe you should keep that in mind next time you feel compelled to share with your enlightened opinion with us."

Yeah! And since teams are all about the hometown cities, all you Toronto fucks should just be Leafs fans too! SUNDIN SUCKS!!!!!!

Hey Mclea, I don't live in Toronto but I live in Ontario, do I get to tell you what to do too? If so, I invite you to consider the following:

The attempt to silence a man is the greatest honor you can bestow on him. It means that you recognize his superiority to yourself.
- Joseph Sobran

sacamano said...


The attempt to silence a man is the greatest honor you can bestow on him. It means that you recognize his superiority to yourself.
- Joseph Sobran


What a ridiculous fucking statement? Not that I'm a fan of censorship, but are you really saying that if I attempt to prevent James Keegstra from teaching high school students that the Holocaust is a myth, this means that I think he is superior to me. |

Uh, okay, whatever.

Anyway, I don't really want to talk about Keegstra -- I only introduced him so that we can invoke Goodwin's Law in order to change topics to discuss the fact that the Oilers have won two in a row and are kicking ASS and taking NAMES! I KNEW we should have traded Torres earlier.

GOILLLLERRRRZZZZ!

Anonymous said...

Go to any other stadium in the NHL that was built in the past 10 years. I have personally been to the Corell Center (or whatever it is called now in Ottawa), Air Canada Center, and even Madison Square Garden. Each building is a real treat to watch a game in, as I am sure many other stadiums are in the league. Even the saddle dome is a nicer venue. Rexall is outdated. Why not build a new stadium now while the economy is booming and we have a population base to share the financial burden? I think a new stadium is definitely the way to go.