Saturday, April 28, 2007


Either/Or Else

John MacKinnon continues the assault today. It's a fine read, particularly following on the footsteps of Matt's post yesterday. You see, we have a say in the matter, people. Just read this article. We could choose to not build an arena downtown, but then we wouldn't have the restraurants, shops and bohemian lifestyles that we all desire. We could choose to just stay at Rexall, but then the Oilers wouldn't be able to draw in enough money to compete, and you'd never see another Staney Cup in this city again. Or we could choose to demand that the Edmonton Investors Group pay for it themselves, and leave us out of it the decision making process. But then we would get an arena in Viking, just like the farmland arena in Kanata. So here are your options, Edmontonians, at least according to John MacKinnon: give Mayor Mandel the right to spend your taxdollars on a new arena downtown, or live in a city where your downtown sucks, the team sucks, and the stadium is on the backlot of the Sutter farm. Make your choice: "in the end, Edmontonians will get the arena they deserve. One way or the other." There can obviously be no other alternative; no using of that downtown space for other projects that will help revitilize the downtown core, no effective management from a hockey organization, no financing of a new arena by the owners of the company that use said arena, and no chance that the mayor can keep his paws out of the business of publicly financing millionaires. Gosh. If only this story had been written ten months ago. Same goes for the McKeen and Lamphier articles. Then us non-cosmopolitan hillbillies (did I spell that right? Shucks) wouldn't have gotten all confused and such by ideas like proof, evidence, fiscal responsibility, political accountability, and good ol' integrity. We could have just divorced our wives and husbands, gathered up a mob, moved some homeless people, leveled those buildings and gotten started on a new rink already! Go big or go home. That's the best damn explanation of directing and deciding public policy I've ever heard.



By the way, anyone from Montreal want to comment on how well those grandiose plans for the Expo, Summer Olympics and baseball franchise did for the city, especially its bank account?

And kudos to the Journal writers for only taking fifteen or so stories before dropping the "we won't be able to compete in the new NHL argument" that we all knew was coming. Kevin Lowe would be proud. I expect threats of relocation from "anonymous backers" to occur within the month.

the Expo site was far in the eastern boonies of MTL, dude.

the Expo site was far in the eastern boonies of MTL, dude.


When you come right down to it Andy I think the best argument for an arena is that I and many others are entirely devoid of any belief that if the 100-200 million various levels of government may contribute to the arena project were not spent on such a project that it would in turn be spent in a manner that was likely to realize any more public utility.

After all beyond an arena they're now floating out trial balloons for a high speed rail line which makes absolutely no sense with Alberta's population density. Not to mention the fact that such project has the prospect of being a repeative long term loser. At least a one time arena give away is one and done.

If the options were tax cuts personally versus an arena, I'd be inclined towards tax cuts and the Oilers could raise sufficient capital on their own. However, when its 'please select from a list of frivolous vanity projects your preferred way to waste tax dollars' I'll probably at least see a few games in a new arena.

Isn't that the type of cynicism that allows politicians to mismanage money like that in the first place, Chris? I understand your point, and your frustration, but I'm sure we could come up with one hundred better suggestions on this site on how to spend the money. Giving me my own boutique record label and an entourage of honies, for one.

From personal experience the record label and entourage isn't all its cracked up to be.

Hey here in Toronto we had governments bending over backward to help finance the new soccer stadium for Larry Tanenbaum, noted wealthy guy, head man for MLSE (they need governement help, of course) and Liberal bagman.

And nary a note of protest, even from that noted defender of the downtrodden, the Toronto Star, which never stops berating us about how we should be happy to allow government into our bank accounts. Of course the Star also has its ties to the Liberals.

Its not just in Alberta, my friend.

Hang the rich I say. Or at least some of them.

graham - Andy's point, I think, was that all of that public money ended up bankrupting Montreal, just as the 2004 Olympics is going to still be on the books in Greece for another 100 years.

After reading Andy's logical and systematic take-down of the Edmonton downtown arena proponents, clicking into his arguments against wasteful vanity spending, the possible opportunity costs of not spending that money to better Edmonton is various other ways, I'm left with only one question: Is the new Arena going to be blue or red? This isn't a slam at Andy's rhetorical skills, its just an observation that once the public/media sees something shiny and sparkly you're going to need a municipal sized cattle prod to get people to snap out of the trance.

Article on the problems with publicly-financed arenas here:

"More Baseball Bashing"

Some more stuff here:

"Demolishing Sports Welfare"

One thing I find perplexing about Edmonton city council since I moved back here last year is their peculiar unwillingness to look at how things are done ANYWHERE ELSE. Is it just laziness? Non-existent research skills?

- WIlson

One thing I find perplexing about Edmonton city council since I moved back here last year is their peculiar unwillingness to look at how things are done ANYWHERE ELSE. Is it just laziness? Non-existent research skills?

I'm sure they look the same way the fanboys at the Journal do: selectively.

Thanks for those links. I'll take a look. If anyone else sees other good links on the issue of arenas, please stick them in here. Matt and I love em.

How about another 100-200 million on expanding/improving the LRT service? That shit is worth every penny, IMO.

Gah. More "you are so provincial, Edmontonions" from McKinnon, here.

"It has to do with a hesitancy to be extravagant, period."

Please. Show me some hard, factual evidence of this benefit of this, and give me some logical reasons why we should have to pay for it, and then maybe I'll come around. Until then, McKeen, Lamphier, McKinnon and the rest of the snobs can keep their arena.

Mckinnen's take on Laforge:

Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge, for one, is a marketing man to the marrow of his bones. He listens to people and is sensitive to what he hears.

Isn't the idea of Marketing to convince consumers to want something they don't actually need?

Listen, the guy just finished abjectly apologizing for the Oilers' non-playoff season, for Pete's sake.

Ya, come on, the guy said "sorry," give him his $200 Million already!

Also, just got back from an exuberating visit to downtown Buffalo. HSBC sure has done a number to revitalize that flourishing downtown core. After a home team playoff victory there wasn't A SINGLE SOUL on the streets 45 minutes after the game. They must be hiding their "rouge and lipstick" behind all those dilapidated abandoned buildings.

"If anyone else sees other good links on the issue of arenas, please stick them in here."

...comprehensive links to sports welfare-related topics at Reason Magazine:

I think one of those a few years back cited the Trappers to support the thesis, "If you build it (and pay for it) they will leave."

I don't see *that* being a huge concern, simply because of the way the Oilers ownership is currently structured. Nonetheless, any sports team that doesn't have to pay for its shiny new venue becomes a renter instead of a homeowner.

As I probably mentioned before, I see benefits to a new arena. I'm just not sure why the Oilers and their enablers think it's ethical for taxpayers to foot the bill.

Given how expertly MLB and the NFL have been fleecing municipal taxpayers for *years*, maybe our city council *has* been looking at the way things are done elsewhere! ;>

- Wilson

You know, I wish our downtown core was several times larger and more booming, but a fucking ARENA is not my idea of improving it. An arena is a waste of space, a black hole that sucks all life away when it's not used. Let's build spaces where people can live, work, and play 365 days a year, not a few hours of maybe 100 nights a year.

I don't necessarily think it's a BAD THING that the EIG wants to create more profit, but please: keep your half-baked development plans out of my downtown. I'm sick of these childish, irresponsible kleptocratic powers running City Hall and The Edmonton Journal.

One thing I find perplexing about Edmonton city council since I moved back here last year is their peculiar unwillingness to look at how things are done ANYWHERE ELSE. Is it just laziness? Non-existent research skills?

Take the deregulation of natural gas and electricity in the province as another example. Alberta paid no attention whatsoever to the plight of other states/provinces and stepped in the exact same holes. Intentionally overheating the construction market all over the province is probably another example.

I'm not sure this is a particularly Albertan flaw, but it is certainly one that we seem to revel in. "Look at us, we're at least as stupid as you were and we did it even though we knew this was going to happen. Git 'er done."

...once the public/media sees something shiny and sparkly you're going to need a municipal sized cattle prod to get people to snap out of the trance.

No doubt.

That's probably the scariest thing.

You know what's even scarier? Right now it looks like the only thing that will fix this mess is someone stumping for mayor on this issue. Depending on politicians trying to get elected makes me feel particularly dirty.

Is Brian Mason still around?

I'm not afraid of to be extravagant when it involves lasting projects such as a new art gallery or new museum (I would support the province and even the city kicking in money to make the original RAM project design a reality). The reason why? Because we at least have some idea about what the economic impact of that sector is on our region. We can debate whether the investment we're making in these facilities is justified in the return. I would argue the business, as well as the intrinsic value to the community that these facilities offer (exposure to art and culture for school-aged children, classes offered by the AGA etc.) makes the investment worthwhile. These are extravagant investments that we have some idea of what we're getting in return for going ahead wtih them.

As for the Oilers, I think that we can all agree that they help enhance awareness of Edmonton, but my advice to columnists like McKinnon and McKeen would be to spend less time navel-gazing about pie-in-the-sky visions of an arena and making paternalistic comments towards readers who may have questions about supporting this project, and more time making a case for the benefit the Oilers bring to this community, and how a new arena (downtown or not) will enhance this. Because right now, we have no idea. Even the Oilers' own website doesn't have a figure for us.

At what point did you stop being a fan and get involved in local politics? Are you running for office or something?

Seriously, what do you care if Edmonton spends $400 million or $400 billion on a public building?

Alberta is in a boom right now, if you don't take advantage of this while the fire is hot, you guys will never get new digs. Maybe that's what you want.

Wasn't there an editorial in an Albertan paper about how the Oil Boom is on the wane?

Not to mention a number of articles I have read about how the province isn't maximising the potential revenues and you have a situation where the city shouldn't be pissing away $400M just because they think that they have it.

Grabia for city council!

uh, james?

It's called taxes out of my pocket, for one. Not to mention the sheer stupidity of it all.

I have no problem with my taxes going to a new arena. They go to other crap/social programs that I'm not a fan of (welfare is number one on that list).

Does Edmonton need an arena? Maybe. But let's discuss that first before we get talking about public money. The media is getting ahead of themselves. I actally think they might. I go to all their games, and it's not a comfy place. I grew up in Manitoba and have great memories of the Oilers playing in Winnipeg was a crappy arena in terms of the view (nosebleed seats could not see the scoreboard) and acoustics, but damn it was comfy. That's bad if the shitty old Winnipeg Arena is better than Rexall Place.

And I like the point by Chris, tax money goes to other programs/areas that many of the population has no use for. So why not an arena? It might not be the worst idea in history.


The City of Edmonton does not pay for welfare programs. This isn't a debate between a new arena for Cal Nichols and more welfare.

Some people need to take Social Studies 10 again, it seems.

Winnipeg Arena more comfy than Rexall Place? Well, so much for your credibility.
Rexall's no palace, but it's light years better than the old Arena ever was.
As for the article, why doesn't the Journal writer just say "Just lie back and enjoy it."

Alberta is in a boom right now

I love this reasoning, which keeps cropping up: the oil money is gonna get spent on something totally stupid no matter what you say, so stop complaining already you goddamn crybabies.

Also, it's likely that city taxpayers will have to pay a share, and unlike the province, the city has no money.

If we're talking about "vision" and urban planning, I for one would rather see the money spent on another LRT station built in the next 20 years (I believe that's the pace we're on right now, no?)

BTW Andy, I actually wrote a letter to all of the Journal columnists today for some reason. Perhaps I'll be appearing in their esteemed "venting" section of the paper.

I dunno man. If you assume the Oilers have pretty much maxxed out their revenue streams (they have), what else might you suggest to increase cash flow? Especially when you consider the escalating revenue caps coming. Oilerette hookers in the washrooms maybe? Crackstands in the mezzanine?

Look. The EIG is made of business guys. Business guys who have every right to try to find other sources of cash than their own to finance their projects. Its how they got rich in the first place. So what's the big surprise here?

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the rink is going to be built - downtown - and some percentage of public funds from some level of government is going to be sourced. That's just a fact of life. However, even Mandel isn't saying that the city will be involved, just that some funding will come from some public funds somewhere. Reading down the comments, some of you have even gone so far as to assume that the city will foot the entire $400 million. Get real - it won't. Sheesh!

Worst case - we have to buck up a few (relatively) million. We pay taxes right now and have wagon trails for roads, weed-infested, unkempt green spaces, garbage everywhere and a cop hiding behind every bush "keeping the streets safe" with radar. At least this way we might get rid of that shit hole behind city hall and a desperately needed new parking facility (-30 in the winter here, transit aint an option for anybody who can afford 12 grand a year for season tickets). And if we get more urban development as a result - bonus!

Don't get me wrong, I hate tax grabs to help rich guys get richer just as much as Andy or any of you guys. But if this is inevitable and I can at least point to something tangible and halfways positive that my money went to, I'm OK with that.

Actually, after all this I cannot believe there hasn't been any backlash from anywhere about the fact that the "advisory" committee is stacked to the rafters with Oilers and Northlands people. PatLaf may be an arrogant fuck with a grade ten level knowledge about marketing, but if he was the one who pulled this off I'd (reluctantly) have to shake his hand.


If we're talking about "vision" and urban planning, I for one would rather see the money spent on another LRT station built in the next 20 years (I believe that's the pace we're on right now, no?)

Actually, Mike, the South Campus LRT extension is going to happen by the end of 2008, meaning two new stations: McKernan/Belgravia and South Campus. The Southgate and Century Park stations are scheduled to happen by the end of 2009.

I guess you haven't been down 114th street lately. :)

It's nice, but we need to be pushing the line west, as well.

Dave s said...
I dunno man. If you assume the Oilers have pretty much maxxed out their revenue streams (they have), what else might you suggest to increase cash flow?

Sorry Dave, I'm not even buying that.

According to Spector's article from Feb 10th, 2007, the Oilers raised ticket prices by 21.4% going into this year and still sold out all the games well ahead of time.

They proceeded to totally mismanage the club, set modern day records for offensive futility, and get bumped out of the playoff race faster than any time in the last ten years. And how did Oiler fans hold them accountable?

By buying season tickets at a near record pace of course. This according to Pat Laforge a few weeks ago.

Does that sound like a business that has found its price point to you?

Also from Spector's article: the Oilers have the sixth highest ticket prices in the league and the 8th highest gate revenues. So the league benchmarks are in line as well.

The EIG has done a fabulous job of squeezing every last drop, but there's still a little in there IMO.

I agree with your sentiment though. The EIG will want a new building especially when it will leverage its investment with taxpayer funds. I also concede that the city will probably find a way to line their pockets and they'll probably build the wrong building in the wrong location for too much money.

That's how Edmonton rolls.

Hey whattaya know, John MacKinnon answered my letter.

I may disagree with him, but I gotta give him props for that.

Why is Mayor Howie Mandel so boned up to build his corporate buddies a new rink? An enterprising reporter might ask His Worship to publicize his list of campaign donors. Follow the money, boys. Follow the money.

My guess is the EIG is looking 5-10 years down the road, far past the point of simply being able to raise ticket prices. They also have to consider the ongoing debt oft mentioned here and in CinO, and how that debt will affect their overall financial well-being down the road. And lastly, while I am far from being as knowledgeable on the subject as some here, we all know that the EIG has a 10% below cap philosophy in play. Hey, they had above league revenues these last couple of years and look where we are now. Imagine 5 years from now when the cap is $50 million or something in that order.

What these guys are looking at is the significant cash flow possibilities from things like all those additional spanky luxury boxes. Like it or not, this team has to show a profit on a go forward basis and this arena idea is being floated as the insurance policy to that effect.

Besides, as mentioned previously, now is the time to strike. Its like when you were a kid and you knew the best time to hit up your dad for some cash was on the day he got paid. Hmmm...maybe that's not the best analogy, but you get my point.

Mandel goes to Calgary and sees all the development going on in their downtown. He wants a piece of that action as his legacy here in E-Town. Problem is, Edmonton will never have the corporate development dollars to the same scale as down south. How many prime locations do you see downtown right now going untouched? LOTS.

He probably sees this project as a tipping point for continued core revitalization. Other than the odd one-off condo project and a few new bars like Oil City Roadhouse (barfs in mouth), there's not alot going on despite the so-called construction frenzy in this province.

I'm not saying its right, but I am suggesting that its probably done. My guess is that there's a shiny scale model already in PatLaf's office right now and he and Mandel are making like "Schnauzers playing knob hockey" (sorry to borrow the analogy) as we speak.

Hey whattaya know, John MacKinnon answered my letter.

I may disagree with him, but I gotta give him props for that.

No shit? Paula Simons didn't answer mine. Sorry, no props, for Paula.

Dave S. just said everything I was going to.

Part of it is the whole "vision" thing: decades of Edmonton mayors have had NO vision of the future. mandel seems to have one and that's a good thing.

An anonymous source told me last night that Clark Builders has already signed contracts with the city on a new arena. I can't verify it, unfortunately, but it's out there that this is already a done deal. If true, it's pretty damning.

FOI is your friend Andy.'d have to have public meetings, and several readings, and a tendering process - with most likely a public opening of bids......I thin the Clarke Builders thing is the rumor mill getting out of hand.....if all goes as the rumor mill dictates - the City will build the thing overnight without telling anyone and Chorley will burn it to the ground in about a year.

Politics in action, folks!

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