Anyone who's been reading the journal lately knows that there seems to be an ongoing debate over the council's investigation into building a new arena in downtown Edmonton to replace Rexall Place. There's been a barrage of articles over the past few days pointing out some of the advantages and disadvantages to the proposal ... and I guess I shouldn't be surprised there is such hot debate over the topic. It is, after all, a large investment of city resources. I'm cautiously in favour of a new arena in the downtown core, but I've been waiting to weigh in on the issue until I'd read a few more articles in the paper. I think today's article by Scott McKeen convinces me that it's a good idea, and touches on many of the complaints that people have with the arena.
So, why do we need a new arena? Well the reality of the situation is that Rexall is aging - particularly when compared to arenas in other cities. It's the 2nd oldest building the remains in active use in the NHL. From the Oiler's perspective, its hard to remain competitive if they can't sell as many seats or luxury boxes as other teams. If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm an Oiler fanboy, so you'll know that I'm biased about this from the start. But before you chastise me for being biased, Scott McKeen makes the point that Rexall is not just used for Oiler games... a new arena would be usable to attract some of the world's biggest musical acts as well. Not only that, one should only look back to this time last year when the Oilers were making their unlikely run through the playoffs to know how important the Oilers are to this city. Don't you think they deserve the chance to remain competitive - particularly when a competitive Oiler team makes this city swell with pride?
So I believe a new arena is warranted. So what are the issues? Well cost is one big one. Already though, it looks like there are several options that will require much less taxpayer dollars to build the arena. As the committee looks at it in more detail, we'll see what they come up with. However, several people more in the know than I remain confident that much of the cost can be absorbed from other sources. Sounds good to me.
As to the location - why not build the arena downtown? Downtown is starting to get much more lively as we are finally seeing condos being built in the core. (I'm happy that the city is finally starting to build up a little - the sprawl of this city is kind of disgusting). Building the arena downtown can only help - particularly since the current proposal is to build it in an area of downtown that isn't exactly bustling at the moment. You have to go west of city hall to really see active part of downtown. Thousands of people pouring into downtown to watch the latest hockey game or concert -- sounds like a good plan to get people downtown. The inevitable businesses that pop up around and in the facility will help draw people to arrive downtown early and have them stay late.
To be honest, I am a little biased. And I don't know all the issues. I do however, have a hard time believing that this isn't a good idea for the city. Many articles have pointed at other cities and the success of downtown arenas there -- places like Vancouver and Columbus and Denver and ... well I forget all of them, but there's quite a few. I don't know all the information, but maybe someone can point out to me why a new downtown arena in Edmonton can hurt us.