Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Arena Feasibility Committee releases its brochure

An artist's rendition of an arena downtown.

A new sports and entertainment facility can and should be the heart of a revitalized, urban district downtown.” - City of Edmonton press release .

"It has to be downtown." -
Feasibility Committee Report.

Well, no surprises today. According to the Arena Feasibility report, the arena is feasible dammit. And guess who will foot the bill? The City. Aside from Daryl Katz's verbal offer of $100 million, the City wants to cover most of the costs by taking out a mortgage on future revenue of the development.

Yep, with all of the private/public talk, the use of cities like Columbus as a model (Nationwide paid for that one), the Feasibility Committee recommends only about 30 per cent of the arena to be paid for by private equity/government grants, while the rest will be paid of with debt financing. Sounds like a very old-school way of building sports arenas to me.

Even though the report says all the right things about private/public partnerships, development, public-friendly design, etc, it doesn't really make the case for why an arena has to be downtown. Even when using revitalization case studies of Columbus, Indianapolis and L.A., the real story that emerges is one of tax incentives, massive housing development and adaptive re-use, which don't have anything to do with arenas, per se. The report tries to highlight an arena as having "drawing power" but real "drawing power" always comes from people actually living downtown to begin with. I'm not against redevelopment, but if most of the cost associated is earmarked for wedging an arena into downtown, is this even worth risking taxpayers money? Don't ask City Council, which seems to be short on cash, but not short enough to build million-dollar crystals and inflatable domes in Churchill Square.

Contrary to what you find in the case study examples, along with the report's travel brochure-esque claims of Edmonton downtown's core having "superior transportation," I still maintain that Edmonton's downtown is ill-equiped: no arterial roads, plenty of red lights, a subway/LRT that is inadequate, and what will be surely limited parking within a 3-4 block radius.

The other question, whether a new arena would be better off in another part of the City will have to go unanswered, as the Feasibility Committee didn't seem to even bother to look anywhere else.

Anyway, such concerns are easily steamrolled by the runaway momentum of this particular freight train, but its obvious the committee hasn't really thought this "revitalization" thing through. Exhibit A: part of the arena financing includes revenue from a levy on businesses that would want to bask in the glow of a hockey rink downtown. From everything I've read, this exactly what you don't do to revitalize an area.

Onwards and upwards, right?

33 comments:

Chris! said...

"The other question, whether a new arena would be better off in another part of the City will have to go unanswered, as the Feasibility Committee didn't seem to even bother to look anywhere else."

At least we can look back and say we considered all our options, right? Morons.

Other things I hate from the report that aren't mentioned here: the committee estimates that $450-million will be good for an arena with 18,000 seats — up a whopping 1,320 from the current arena and thousands short of the capacity of actual "state of the art" rinks like the Bell Centre. That certainly seems worth it!

Oh, and that price estimate doesn't cover the cost of the 2.4 hectares of land required for such a project. But why consider any other location than the most prime real estate in the city when you can just hope the government will give it to you for free! WHOO!

I feel sad.

Knamely Lacked said...

The Pat Laforge Arena is what I imagine the Saddledome would look like if it was in Bizarro World.

Coincidence? I think not.

Besides, shouldn't there be pyramids shooting out from every angle?

Lord Bob said...

Three words, Winters:

WORLD. CLASS. CITY.

What, do you hate freedom or something? Go downtown arena go!

(P.S.: Nashville leads Columbus 2-0 on the out-of-town scoreboard. Is it too late to get a suicide watch put on Andy Grabia?)

mike w said...

Ha ha.

"World Class City" is my favourite Edmonton civic boosterism phrase ever.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has to travel from out of town to see the Oil I can tell you the LAST place I would want to have to go after reaching the outskirts is downtown. Even from the south Rexall is maybe 20 minutes away. On the plus side... no tax burden for me if a new arena!

garnet said...

Sez the Journal:

"It is highly probable," states the report, "that an Edmonton project will require contributions from all orders of government in order for it be economically viable."

Which is to say it isn't economically viable at all. I do hope the taxpayers in Windsor and Moncton understand the need to underwrite our luxury boxes with their tax dollars.

Art Vandelay said...

Not in today's report:

All the roads have been graded, swept, washed and potholes filled.
Also, all new subdivisions have new schools. The northeast has a new hospital.
There are interchanges at every intersection along the Yellowhead.
There are three new bridges across the North Saskatchewan.
Homelessness is no more.
Buses run every 3 minutes on every route, 7 days a week.
Police, firefighters and paramedics have no staffing issues.

What? Not in the Journal story? Probably had to cut it for length.

wuzzles said...

Is the new arena supposed to look like it's about to burst?

Oilman said...

Does this not remind anyone else of a famous Seinfeld episode (particularly you vandelay!)..."It's all downtown!" "Top Priority"

Anonymous said...

Thank god Calgary didn't screw us again! Here's praying the Nucks blow the rest of the season! The Luongos are one boring team to watch. Plus, this year has taught me one thing so far:

If there's anything I hate more than a Leaf's fan, lately it's a Canuck one.

Chartley

David S said...

""World Class City" is my favourite Edmonton civic boosterism phrase ever."

Mike. Spend more than fifteen minutes in Calgary and that phrase will be burned into your brain. Take it from me, I was there 7 years. Even the homeless guys on Stephen Ave were "World Class".

Just watched Lyle Best on Global. Man, if you tried to imagine a weasel giving a speech at city hall, your mental image would look just like Lyle. Seriously, the guy not only sounds like, but looks like a world class weasel.

See? Burned into your brain.

I'm getting a bit worried about Grabia. Not a chirp here or at BoA. I assume the guy is getting pissed drunk tonight and going around letting the air out of all the arena committee members' cars.

David S said...

Uhhh... should read: "letting the air out of all the arena committee members' car tires."

Must. Sleep. Now.

Stan the Caddy said...

Finally I'll be able to go window shopping after games in 30 below weather. Revitalize baby!

If they build it to hold only 18,000 someone should be put on trial. Anything less than 20,000 is a waste when you consider the capacity of other "World Class" venues in this country.

Oilman said...

Stan - I'm sure once they figure that out it'll be too far into construction to change - so they'll just charge more for tickets to make up the difference.

Regarding Lyle Best - the dude is an insurance saleman - he's supposed to look like a weasel.

Anonymous said...

The "dude"is not an insurance salesman. Get your facts right. He has done more for the city and charities than most people in the city. He wasn't paid to do this. Facts not personal attacks.Maybe everyone should post their pictures on blogs so we can see if they look like douches weasels vagabonds fashion models et al.

Rock Deputy said...

Maybe everyone should post their pictures on blogs so we can see if they look like douches weasels vagabonds fashion models et al.

maybe everyone should post their names on blogs so we can see if they're Lyle Best or not.

Knamely Lacked said...

".Maybe everyone should post their pictures on blogs so we can see if they look like douches weasels vagabonds fashion models et al.

Lyle's best friend, is that you? Just takin' a guess.

Mr DeBakey said...

Scott McKeen is way ahead of you guys:

I can already hear some of you grinding your teeth, scribbling angry letters to the editor -- faxing pithy put-downs to the Venting column. Knock yourself out. Make sure you mention that stuff about hockey arenas being the exclusive playground of millionaire hockey players, billionaire team owners and their country-club, corporate friends.

Make sure you mention that old chestnut about the forgotten needs of the homeless, the working poor, single moms and the disabled. Better yet, bitch about potholes again.

Then call your mayor or councillor and ask them how they dare consider a new downtown arena when there are so many competing needs.

mike w said...

By the way, I actually kind of agree with Anonymous: I wouldn't post comments that you wouldn't say to a person's face.

This is why I can descrribe Jian Ghomeshi as a preening tit and not feel bad about it.

As for McKeen, and his love for hockey rinks, no matter the cost:

'd tell you that I'd do everything in my power to ensure public investment in a new arena is kept to a minimum.

The City has a chance not to risk hundreds of millions of tax dollars by making this a truly private/public partnership, instead it's pretty much the City footing the bill. That's vision for ya.

LittleFury said...

That McKeen guy has always struck me as being kind of a dink.

I'd tell you that I'd do everything in my power to ensure public investment in a new arena is kept to a minimum.

And I'm sure that principled position would evaporate very quickly with a little tummy-rub from Katz.

I love the assumption that development magically follows arenas when, in almost every case cited in the report, additional development was a precondition of public support.

DMFB said...

I really don't get McKeen's point there.

"Be sure to mention all these completely rational, levelheaded arguments that are being completely ignored by everyone who's blindly in favour of this arena."

Hey McKeen, be sure to trot out the "old chestnut" of making this a world-class city, and making fun of people with concerns for being small-minded rubes wallowing in their own backwater filth.

I don't think I dislike the idea of an arena nearly as much as a I dislike the proponents of the arena.

amw said...

I don't think I dislike the idea of an arena nearly as much as I dislike the proponents of the area

Well, then, it seems there are two separate arguments: 1. we hate/envy the proponents of the arena, or 2. we don't want/need the arena (or the variation 2a. we don't want it downtown, 'cus downtown sucks/too expensive/etc.)

I'm not sure where the disdain for Katz, Mandel and the other backers comes from. If these guys are willing to risk their $$, civic reputations, political lives, etc. because of this vision, so be it. That's how, historically, things get done isn't it? Pretty sure that's how Commonwealth, Winspear and Rexall came to be. (Not to mention the discovery of the new world, landing on the moon, etc.)

With respect to wanting/needing a downtown arena, count me as being in favour. I work downtown, might even live downtown one day. It has major arteries and LRT (with more LRT coming). It needs a boost that development could bring, and while the benefits are not guaranteed, why must we have a guarantee??

There's risk -- business and political here -- but it is mostly not our money at stake. Sure, the province will chip in an amount equal to a month's surplus, and the feds will redirect some cultural funding that otherwise would have been wasted on one boondoggle or another. The City's plan is to pay off the debt with revenues -- with no tax hit to residents.

Count me as a supporter -- perhaps the only one on this blog -- because as a fan, I'm going to go to x games a year and a little luxury would be nice. If the spin-off is that the downtown area improves, all the better.

DMFB said...

I'm not sure where the disdain for Katz, Mandel and the other backers comes from.

The fact they act like anyone opposed to the idea is a mouth-breathing yokel. That is where the disdain comes from.

Jay said...

From McKeen:

If I were a city councillor, I'd tell you a true story. I'd explain how the city is already investing countless millions in maintaining, repairing and building roads, bridges and sidewalks. I'd tell you about the numerous programs to help the homeless, the disabled and the working poor.

Then I'd tell YOU how your mayor has pledged not to raise property taxes in order to pay for this fiasco, and thus it is fairly clear from which sources these funds will be derived (hint - pray for a dry winter next year!)

I'd tell you, as well, that world-class cities...yadda yadda yadda...something about rodeos...

I'm not necessarily dead-set against providing some public funds to build arenas for professional hockey clubs. There is something to be said for civic pride. But really, when municipal infrastructure is crumbling because it has been neglected for so long by sprawling cities trying to balance their budgets in lieu of transfers, maybe that will have a greater effect on an individual's civic pride than what arena the hockey team plays in. Especially when one is not even remotely needed.

Peeeete. said...

I spent 28 years as a loyal Edmontonian - born in the General (before it was a geriatric hospital, obviously), raised four blocks off Whyte, blah blah. I have become so weary of that pseudo-city over the last few years, however, that I am constantly enraged.

So after years of dicking around ("should I move to Montreal? Ooooohh, might be too haaaaard") I finally lost my mind entirely and moved to the suburbs of Mexico City. This is "world-class", right? An innumerable population (20-35M, approximately); people who live on garbage dumps; amazing restaurants; cabbies who may murder you; more museums per capita than anywhere; hideous Latin pop at every turn.

A real city is complex, and often upsetting; Edmonton is not. It's Red Deer, but bigger. Nobody here knows or cares where I'm from; nobody recognizes the name. Edmonton is Minneapolis at best, or Kazan at worst. An oddly big cold place that nobody cares about. There's nothing to 'revitalize'; downtown is irrelevant to non-residents. The whole city is.

My point? This arena will end up being wildly over-budget, and will be primarily funded by taxpayers (one way or another, through various levels of government)It will be ugly, half-assed, and badly built, and will do nothing to enhance Edmonton's national/international standing. It's bullshit, being sold to a bunch of hicks, rubes and shills like McKeen by those who stand to profit.

Fuck this. How would YOU spend $500M?

Art Vandelay said...

I'm not sure where the disdain for Katz, Mandel and the other backers comes from. If these guys are willing to risk their $$, civic reputations, political lives, etc. because of this vision, so be it. That's how, historically, things get done isn't it? Pretty sure that's how Commonwealth, Winspear and Rexall came to be. (Not to mention the discovery of the new world, landing on the moon, etc.)

Oh yah. Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong, Mayor Howie Mandel. Men with Vision.

As for risking their $$, I have $100K to build my dream home. I'd like the city to finance the other $400K, on land it acquires at its cost, and ask my neighbours (all million of them, give or take) to finance the debt.

Risking their political lives. In a city where an incumbent mayor hasn't faced a challenger since they paved Jasper Avenue.

Government stealing money from those who earned it and redistributing it to those who didn't, is barely tolerable at the best of time. When it's taken from hard-working property owners to finance the debt for a billionaire's factory and his millionaire part-time employees, it's absolutely galling.

Peeeete. said...

Ah yes; forgot: I have no photo up, but rest assured I look like a douche/weasel/vagabond/fashion model, exactly, in equal parts.

Just for the record.

Also for the record: Lyle Best gives me the heebie-jeebies. That's OK, despite his Good Works?

Peeeete. said...

"Oh yah. Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong, Mayor Howie Mandel. Men with Vision."

And Jesus! How could you forget? Especially right after Easter and all... it's a wonderful thing. Warms my heart...


"Government stealing money from those who earned it and redistributing it to those who didn't, is barely tolerable at the best of time. When it's taken from hard-working property owners to finance the debt for a billionaire's factory and his millionaire part-time employees, it's absolutely galling."

I second that. But hey! Give up the property taxes on your hard-earned new (250K retrofitted firetrap walkup) condo, in order to line some other guy's pockets! It's fun! While you're doing that, may I interest you in some investment property in Toluca? It's the new Mexican industrial hotbed! Fucking better use of cash...

Suckers. "but, but... we're not Winnipeg." Guess what: we are! So play to the local strengths, genuinely for once, and quit trying to beat Calgary. 100+ years, we lost, move on.

wuzzles said...

A real city is complex, and often upsetting; Edmonton is not. It's Red Deer, but bigger.
85,000 Red Deerians just whooped out a collective "Right on!" and went back listening to The Zed.

Steve said...

Risking their political lives. In a city where an incumbent mayor hasn't faced a challenger since they paved Jasper Avenue.

I agree with most of the venom in this thread (I've already written my councillors and MLA, quaint old fuck that I am), but the above is clearly wrong. I'm not sure when they paved Jasper Ave, but:

2004 - incumbent Bill Smith defeated by Stephen Mandel
1995 - incumbent Jan Reimer defeated by Bill Smith
1992 - incumbent Terry Cavanagh defeated by Jan Reimer
1983 - incumbent Cec Purves defeated by Laurence Decore
1974 - incumbent Ivor Dent defeated by both William Hawrelak and Cec Purves

I could go back further, but you get the idea.

Rag on taxpayer subsidy of (lucrative) private industry all you want, but get your history of municipal politics straight.

cynical joe said...

This is why I can descrribe Jian Ghomeshi as a preening tit and not feel bad about it.

Jian (Gian?) Ghomeshi turns Mr. Hand into Mr. Fist.

Fuck this. How would YOU spend $500M?

Well, the first million or so on Hookers and Booze, then I'd probably waste the rest.

velo said...

I didn't know the new rink was made of cake! Does that drive the cost up or down?

hicks said...

The cake is a lie.