Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Edmonton Arena Reasoning Awry

* UPDATED * My solution to the Arena Debate.

Ok Edmonton; I've got a beef with the Katz Group. I think they are trying to put one over on us; to distribute risk (that lets all be honest here is quite high) amongst Edmontonians.

Of course I am talking about the beloved Arena: that will revitalize downtown, kick start the economy, upgrade our standard of living, and be paid off in a relatively short time by a bunch of side businesses who haven't stepped forward yet through the taxes that could be levied on future establishments.

Yup, similar to the Alberta Government's theory that oil booms are some sort of universal constant law; the City of Edmonton and the Katz group also seem to be of a similar mystical belief that "if you build it, they will come" in any and all cases.

Edmonton has had a pretty large list in recent history of big investment ventures with little payoff, all in some quest to become a "first class" city which isn't really new. We've made big investments in events like the Edmonton Indy. We were willing to put large bids towards events such as Expo 2017. Yet even though we have held multiple of these world-class events we are not as of yet a "first class" city it would now seem without a new arena for the Oilers.

At the forefront of the drive for a higher standard of living and improved economy for their fellow Edmontonians through the thoughtful service of a new arena is the Katz Group, which according to their site:
The Katz Group is one of Canada's leading drug store operators with over 1,800 drug stores across the country. 
This drive primarily is being done through a propaganda campaign which for the most part seems to offer little information in the "how" department. I call it propaganda because the argument being presented to Edmontonians is being framed for you with the possible outcomes limited to:
  • Build an arena and revitalize downtown.
  • Do not build an arena and do not revitalize downtown.

The arena is a dreamland, but also likely an expensive economic nightmare based on this rendering.


Naturally the domain name they chose is "revitalizedowntown.ca". Working to establish an assumed association that the revitalization is an absolute certainty and will surely happen, only the arena itself is debatable not the assumed effects. Their version of the effects this arena will have is that basically, the Arena itself will be so glorious, amazing, and kick ass that business far and wide will flock to have their business near the arena, that people will have the money to pay what are surely to be ridiculous costs to use the arena and surrounding business, that more tourists will come to use it even though its primary months of use for hockey will be when its cold or even colder (-40C).

With the way things are going predicting long term budgets are likely to be pretty much impossible with the Wall Street Journal predicting an end to the USD which up until now has reigned as the international currency and more importantly has been the only currency you can trade for oil. Contrary to sports arena economic experts I have the belief we are nowhere close to being economically positioned to afford a project on this scale.

I have a question for the Katz Group since they ignore me in their Facebook group. If you can own 1600 different drug store locations, and you actually believe this investment is a 100% guarantee -- why not take out a loan? Isn't that what capitalism is all about? If I wanted to get my business a larger office because I needed it and it would surely pay itself off then that would be a no-brainer. I wouldn't then go to the city for my loan, I would go to the bank like everyone else is supposed to. So what is with the insistence Mr. Katz? Could it be this investment is not nearly as sound as you would prefer us all to believe? Could it be you know the construction costs will over-shoot due to current world economic circumstances? Could it be you want the new arena right now before the cost of living goes so high no one will be able to afford the ridiculous cost of tickets to one of the events hosted there? Might it be that world food prices are soaring which is sure to affect us sooner or later?

Edmonton, I plead with you that the logic behind the arena is flawed. There is no extra consumer money right now to fuel the needed amounts of consumption that will be required to pay this thing off. The Katz Group is trying to sell you on the idea to distribute their investment risk on to the people of Edmonton. If we really want to revitalize downtown, how about a park? More street venders? More culture and arts? Why don't we try spending millions of dollars in thousands of places around Edmonton, instead of in one single place? one single investment? I'm all for becoming this elusive "first class" city but my excitement for that prospect does not cloud my judgment on the fact this arena is probably one of the stupidest ideas Edmonton has had in a long time. We already have an arena, and a stadium -- both of which are the center of their particular bad neighborhood. Sports centers do not revitalize anything in Edmonton, and in the end how much should this revitalization really be costing?

Besides problems like this haven't you ever been downtown at rush hour, Daryl? Our downtown can not handle the sorts of traffic this arena would generate even if your theory is correct. Why don't you prove you have faith in the project by going ahead with it on the Oiler's dime and if you can demonstrate a personal faith with personal risk in such a project then I'm all behind Edmonton getting behind it too.

Edmonton Arena Part 2 *

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