Tuesday, November 14, 2006

 

Front Page Challenge

Paula Simons has an article in today's Edmonton Journal about the potential for a new hockey arena in downtown Edmonton. Simons sticks to her guns in suggesting that this is all just a suggestion, but there are some revealing and hilarious nuggets in the article. For example:

• The plan's backers went through all the effort of getting a concept design done, but wish to remain "anonymous." They will not be heard from again in the article. No, really.

• The design calls for a glass pyramid to top the rink, similar to the glass pyramids that already top City Hall and the Muttart Conservatory.

• Simons argues that a downtown arena would be good for "bringing life to the city core," but then admits later in the article that neither Rexall or Commonwealth have helped their communities draw in upscale bars and businesses.

• She also argues that it would be good for public transit, based on the idea that one additional station in the downtown area could be built. Oh, and it might spur a west-bound LRT line. Okaaay.

• But wait! No one knows if the Oilers actually want to move! We know the Oilers want a new arena, because Cal Nichols says so right in the article, but maybe they are perfectly happy to stay at Northlands.

• According to Nichols, what is necessary is a public campaign debate. Because "we have to do, not what's right for the Oilers or Northlands or the downtown, but for the city."

• Simons plays the "small-market" card with the "who pays for the new arena" question, and then subtlely drops in the call for "government support" beside the "private investment" call. She also mentions the recent Forbes article on NHL franchise values, but forgot to mention that the team's value is now estimated at $146 million, $76 million more than the EIG orginally paid for the franchise.


So...anybody want to get their Pierre Berton on, and attempt to take a guess at a) who the "anonymous" backers are, b) what they actually want to happen in terms of an arena, and c) what they are attempting to pull off through the placement of this idea? Or is it all too obvious to even try? I know that I can immediately think of two self-interested parties who might be backing this idea. Then again, maybe profit actually has very little to do with motive, and Bruce Wayne just wants to give back to the city that raised him.

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Comments:

Welcome back!

No posts for like 72 hours, I was starting to get worried....
 


This story is about 6 months old so you have to wonder why it broke in the Journal today. The first plans I heard involved a stadium on 97th Street, just East of Shaw.

A new stadium is a must from a business perspective. It's all about hobnobbing with the rich and famous--and you can't do that as easily without attached hotels and swank VIP rooms.

Who do you think is behind this and who do you think has $300 million to fund it?
 


Good lord, Paula Simon has gone significantly more downtown-oriented (by that I meant "retarded") since her suggestions to move the entire U of A campus to downtown.

And what's with this not citing any sources business? Lame!
 


Who's behind it? Thats easy, who owns large amounts of land downtown? These stadium deals are almost always land deals, unless the City gives away the land. So, does the City own any large parcels downtown? I'm waiting for the 'but Northlands is the third oldest building in the NHL' canard, thus it's deserving of Edmontonian and Albertan taxpayers forking over some cash. I'm not completely against a new arena but let the rich and powerful fund the majority of it and then the City/Province can throw in some infrastructure stuff (road widening, overpasses, etc).
 


Who's Bruce Wayne, Andy?

Wasn't he mayor there for a time?

Or do I have him confused with somebody else?
 


To be fair to the EIG, they've dumped more cash than the purchase price would indicate into the Oilers over the years, and the return on their investment probably wouldn't be enough to get a rink up a today's rates.

To be fair to Paula Simon, part of the reason Rexall Place hasn't seen any revitalization is because the part of the city it's in isn't downtown: it's a hole, and it's not a particularly well-placed hole. In downtown, where there are motivating factors other than "the rink", things are likely to go better. If you've been to Seattle, their baseball and football stadia are right downtown and you are mere blocks from some serious awesome. Much the same in Vancouver.

That said, the pyramid roof is insane. In. sane. It would give us Dallas Slurpee ice year-round unless somebody could arrange some really brilliant engineering. Would sure look pretty, though.
 


Who's Bruce Wayne, Andy?

You may know him better as Adam West.
 


Gotcha Doogie. He changed his name when he went into the acting.

So, not politics then.

Is he back in Edmonton or still in L.A.?
 


As an occasional visitor to/and an avid Google map user of Edmonton, where would you say is the centre of downtown? Jasper and 100 St? Looking at the map it doesn't look like Commonwealth Stad. or Rexall Pl. is very far from the centre of things.
 


it's pretty far away actually since the overall size of edmonton is so huge and the city's so spread out. the downtown arena idea is too good and makes too much sense. as for where the money's coming from, surely, the alberta government would be able to kick in 100 or 200 million since that's roughly the revenue they take in from oil in roughly 1.8 seconds. this is a government that gave 400 dollars to all of its residents last year and a province that's looking for places to spend money. rexall place is over 30 years old now and another renovation isn't (a) going to move it closer to where most of the people who go to games actually live or (b) increse its size too much. the rink is one of the oldest in the league (ahead of uniondale and the igloo, right?) and also one of the smallest ... it's time.
 


Thats easy, who owns large amounts of land downtown?

That is what is so interesting. The land Simons is talking about is owned by Canada Post, and in the article they say they aren't selling.

I'm waiting for the 'but Northlands is the third oldest building in the NHL' canard, thus it's deserving of Edmontonian and Albertan taxpayers forking over some cash.

Oh, that was in the article, too.

If I'm being cynical, which I am, I argue that the EIG and someone in the City are behind this idea. I consider it a test balloon. A objective writer with no vested interest drops some hints about how good it will be for the economy and the morale of the city, and plays on the small-market-that-could myth, third oldest stadium bit, etc. etc. It softens the people up a bit. Then, when the EIG and City comes calling for provincial taxpayers to foot the majority of the bill, the reaction isn't as strong. We'll practically be begging for it, and believe it was our idea all along.
 


Uhm, Black Dog, Bruce Wayne was a character played by Adam West on a TV show back in the 60's... You may also know him as the alter-ego of... wait for it... BATMAN!

Also played by Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and most recently Christian Bale...

He owns Wayne Enterprises, which builds all of Batman's cool stuff...

Hey, maybe Wayne Enterprises could build the Oilers a powerplay...
 


Relative to the size of Edmonton as a whole, Commonwealth Stadium could hardly be more downtown than if it were right on the old CN rail yards now occupied by Grant MacEwan College. The Coliseum is merely on the other end of the same crappy inner-city neighborhood. Just think of the LRT stations: Central-Churchill-Commonwealth-Coliseum. A healthy person could walk that entire distance in under an hour.
The only way this idea flies is if the City of Edmonton invokes eminent domain on all that crud between Grant McEwan and 112th ave. Since they're all renters, hookers and crackheads, there's no voting constituency to complain about private property rights. Same thing happened in Calgary 30 years ago when they were bulldozing the ghetto to build the Saddlesore.
Another interesting spot would be the municipal airport. Pointless airport. Lots of land.
 


Interesting stuff, Andy. Random comments on the comments so far...

This story is about 6 months old so you have to wonder why it broke in the Journal today.

It's not the first story the Journal's done on the stadium proposals. What's new is the location (north of downtown rather than east) and the floating of an architectural concept. Like Andy, I think this is a trial balloon to gauge reaction to a proposal to the City/Province.

If you've been to Seattle, their baseball and football stadia are right downtown and you are mere blocks from some serious awesome.

Not sure I agree with you on that point, LB. From my experience Seattle's stadia are great to look at and be in during a game, but the blocks surrounding them are a dead zone bounded by two freeways, much like the areas around most arenas. I don't think many people wander down to Safeco by crossing Yesler (already at the south edge of downtown) and then going another 10 blocks.

Wherever a new coliseum is located in Edmonton I think it will sterilize the blocks around it. That doesn't mean I oppose stadiums, just that I'm skeptical about any claims that may be made about neighbourhood revitalization being part of the benefits.

As for where the money's coming from, surely, the alberta government would be able to kick in 100 or 200 million

Perhaps. And with a stadium proposal coming from Calgary as well the province would be able to stick with its 'Jubilee North & South' strategy of offending no one. Except taxpayers who'd rather see the money put to a different use, or saved for the future.

Paula Simon has gone significantly more downtown-oriented...since her suggestions to move the entire U of A campus to downtown.

All I remember her advocating was that the University consider developing the Bay building, which of course they've gone and done.

Like Rexall, the Bay building has a built-in advantage: it's on the existing LRT line. It would be great to see a proposal that used the Northlands site's transit advantages. Maybe like the Yankee Stadium project they could build the new venue next door, then demolish the old one.
 


Actually, I remember a good three or four years ago some talk about a new downtown stadium for the Oilers in 2010-2012 or so. Construction was intended to be starting around 2008 (IIRC) and be a crowl jewel downtown with 21,000 seats or so and fancy corporate skyboxes and pedway access to surrounding buildings and architectural genius and all those nice things.

Somebody in the EIG was quoted in said article, because it was made clear that this grand plan could only come about if the "war of 2004" went in the owners' favour.

In other words, this has been brought up before, just never actually with the intent of building the stadium, only the intent of creating fan support for the owners during labour crises.

[Is it maybe a good idea to start distributing to councilmembers and MLAs and Paula Simmons a copy or two of the Rappaport/Wilkerson report on the cost benefits of sports franchises (including publicly funded stadiums) and/or Coates/Humphreys more specific treatment of publicly funded stadiums as it applied to the Washington Nationals?]
 


[Is it maybe a good idea to start distributing to councilmembers and MLAs and Paula Simmons a copy or two of the Rappaport/Wilkerson report on the cost benefits of sports franchises (including publicly funded stadiums) and/or Coates/Humphreys more specific treatment of publicly funded stadiums as it applied to the Washington Nationals?]

Fantastic! I was trying to remember the names of some reports on the issue. Thank you. Steve Forbes also had some interesting stuff to say on ESPN a while back. I can't remember now if I posted it or not. The key quote, as it relates to this issue:

"Studies have been done that generically show that stadium spending has been overhyped. There are always exceptions, where putting a stadium in a downtown corridor can revitalize things. But the key to revitalizing cities is a benign economic environment. Lower property and business taxes and you make it easier for people to set up businesses. Business will then start to flower. Building a stadium should be done because you're already prospering. It should not be a means to prosperity, but a result of prosperity."
 


Randy - what do you mean when you say Batman?

Is he Half man half Bat?

Are you pulling my leg?

Or am I pulling yours?
 


Nice one Black Dog, it looks like you pulled me in hook, line, and sinker...

And I was thinking you may have been the naive one (silly rabbit)...

I was starting to think you lived in a (bat)cave...
 


"Building a stadium should be done because you're already prospering. It should not be a means to prosperity, but a result of prosperity."

But wouldn't Edmonton qualify as a prospering city?
 


Wherever a new coliseum is located in Edmonton I think it will sterilize the blocks around it.

Due to the massive amount of square footage needed for stadiums and parking, they are often built in areas that are already sterile. If the stadium is placed in an already populated area, the area around continues to exist and may experience an occasional increase in business. Look at the MTS centre in downtown Winnipeg or Madison Square Gardens- they enrich an already thriving area. (As "thriving" as downtown Winnipeg gets...) Downtown Oilers would be yet another positive addition to our slowly growing urban center.
 


Sorry Randy, sometimes I just can't help myself.

Like the time I convinced a coworker when I lived in FLA that Canada had gotten rid of the $100.00 bill when Gretzky retired and replaced it with a $99.00 bill (the Gretzky).

So if you needed change for an old $100.00 bill you would get a Gretzky, a "little Gretzky" (99 cent coin) and a penny.

And she believed me - I believe she said she thought us Canadians were "sure crazy about our hockey"

Yup.
 


black dog, I almost passed out laughing at that story.
 


But wouldn't Edmonton qualify as a prospering city?

If you look up prosperity in the dictionary there's a picture of Ralph Klein sitting on a pile of money.

I think there is going to be enormous (think Danny Gallivan saying 'enormous') pressure on the AB government to fund not one but two new hockey palaces from oil royalty revenue, and then look for the government to try and explain that the money is really coming from the 'sports lottery', so in a way, people who like sports already are paying for the stadia. At least thats the way I'd try and get away with it.
 


I was born (1965) and raised east of the Coliseum. Sure it's nice to have NHL hockey in the city, but don't try to tell me that rink revitalized anything. It was built where working-class homes met hog plants. Fed by a freeway sliced through a neighbourhood of homes stolen via eminent domain and further served by an under-utilized, urine-stinking, slow, cold LRT that took 10 years to cross the river and is nearly another 20 years in going anywhere else useful. If the Forbes study is correct about franchise values, let EIG borrow against its equity in the team to finance a new building, road access, parking, etc. I don't care if the Alberta government is stealing, er, "has a surplus of" $3 TRILLION, as long as I pay taxes I don't want to be subsidizing private enterprise, including hockey teams.
 


I don't want to be subsidizing private enterprise, including hockey teams.

See the updated post a couple up from this. You'll be mighty displeased, although the argument could be made that subsidizing the arenas isn't subsidizing the teams. Lots of concerts and other events happen in the stadiums.
 


Here is that update, by the way.
 


Columbus is a fantastic example of a downtown arena done right - and it isn't a dead zone. It's surrounded by condos and by restaurants. Both feasible in a wealthy city like Edmonton. People living around the arena generates the base traffic. It's a great place to be on game nights and it's Columbus for cripes sakes.
 

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