Tuesday, March 25, 2008
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?
Posted by mike w at 12:56 PM