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Kingston Concerned About the LVEC
Currently known as the "KROCK Centre"
Formerly the "Kingston Regional Sports and Entertainment Centre" or KRSEC
Formerly the "Large Venue Entertainment Centre" or LVEC
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The LVEC Process: Responsible?
Democratic? . . . You Decide
Contents:
PHASE I: A Brief Chronology of the LVEC process to September 20, 2004
PHASE II: Continuing the story: October 2004 to April 2005
PHASE III: May 2005–November 1, 2005: End Game

All along, the Mayor was in a great hurry. When Harvey Rosen made his campaign promise to build a "new Memorial Centre", he pledged to start construction on the new centre before the next term of council ends (that is, before another municipal election could provide an opportunity for second thoughts). "This is not going to be something that's going to drag on infinitum," he said. "I'm open minded about it, but I'm going to be iron fisted about it." (Whig Standard, September 27, 2003)

A look at the chronology, to date, of the "LVEC" process certainly confirms Rosen's commitment to speed. But the timing of key decisions also raise questions about the responsibility, accountability and transparency of this process. And given the secrecy and lack of consultation about the choice of site, there's some support for the darker suspicion, held by some critics, that the LVEC project and location was a "done deal" all along--maybe even before Harvey Rosen ran for office. But what is perhaps most unsettling about the whole business is the docile acquiescence of most Council members in a half thought out scheme fraught with potential pitfalls. Were they simply "railroaded" by the mayor? It had become commonplace to complain that, in the past, the city of Kingston has evaded decisive action in favour of endless studies. But is the only alternative "decisions for the sake of decision at all cost"--no matter how uninformed or ill considered?

PHASE I: A Brief Chronology of the LVEC process to September 20, 2004:

September 26, 2003: In an election campaign speech, Harvey Rosen promises to build "a new Memorial Centre" (Whig Standard, September 27, 2003)

December 2, 2003: In his inaugural address to Council, newly elected mayor Harvey Rosen promises "a new Memorial Centre" and announces that Councillor Leonore Foster would chair a Task Force to make recommendations "on the purposes, site and financing for a new Memorial Centre ... within 100 days" (Whig Standard, Dec. 3, 2003)

December 16, 2003: At the December 16 Council Meeting, Mayor Rosen announces the formation of a "Large Venue Entertainment Centre" (LVEC) Task Force. There is no debate on the transition from "Memorial Centre" to "LVEC". The mayor announces his remaining chosen members of the task force: Joe de Mora, (CEO KGH), Ken Wong (a Queens' business professor), Martin Skolnick (a local realtor) and Mike Gillis (a hockey player agent). Council endorses a motion supporting this Task Force and giving it the status of a regular committee of council. (Minutes, City Council meeting no. 03, December 16, 2003. The normal process for selecting individuals to serve on Council committees is to invite applications through public advertising, with individuals selected on the basis of a council vote. However, in this instance, there is no attempt at any public process accountable to elected city representatives. Instead, the Task Force consisted of members hand picked by the mayor.

January 20, 2004: The Task Force receives a "Concept Plan" for the residential re-development of the Memorial Centre Park. (This was only revealed months later in the Whig Standard, August 6, 2004, after its successful application for access to sequestered material under the Freedom of Information Act.)

Concept Plan for Memorial Centre Residential Development .

While the Task Force engages in "consultations" with the public through public meetings, and by soliciting letters and emails, they never mention the possibility of the Anglin Bay site. They also never mention the possibility of selling off the Memorial Centre Park. Later, Councillor Foster admitted that the decision to select a downtown location had been made in advance of these consultations. (Letter to the Whig Standard, May 6)

January 27, 2004: the Task Force meets with members of the Springer family Frontenac owners, who argue strongly in favour of locating the new facility at the Memorial Centre site. (Meeting notes, Special Meeting held 27th January 2004, 9:00 a.m.) One wonders why the Task Force bothered with the meeting, given that they had already ruled out the Memorial Centre site. ( Meeting Notes, of Jan. 27, 2004 Meeting between the Mayor's LVEC Task Force and members of the Springer family)

March 9, 2004: The 80 page "Arena Capacity and Expansion Study" , commissioned earlier by Council to provide extensive plans for replacing ageing community sport and recreation arena facilities, is shelved by Council until after the LVEC Task Force reports. Also, council ignores the recommendations of its own arena study and votes to delay building a second ice pad at the Centre 70 rink. Councillor Beavis comments that the Memorial Centre task force seems to be hijacking the political will already invested in the Centre 70 expansion by the former council. (Whig Standard, March 11)

March 21, 2004: The Task Force provides its completed Report to the Mayor, who keeps it to himself until April 16.

April 16, 2004: Mayor Rosen announces the Task Force Report's conclusions: that an 80,000 square foot LVEC is to be built on Anglin Bay's Marina and Douglas Fluhrer Park site, at a projected cost of $28.5 million, to be financed in part through the sale and residential re-development of the 23 acre Memorial Centre Park. (The other elements of financing were obscure). Concerned citizens react with dismay to the choice of site. Some downtown businessmen are elated. (Whig Standard, April 17, 2004) The Report also advised that in order to handle traffic at the proposed LVEC site, it would be important to build the Wellington Street Extension. The Report provided no detailed comparative study of economic and practical feasibility of alternative possible sites; nor did it provide any evidence to support the economic priority of an LVEC in any location, given other pressing municipal needs.

April 20, 2004: Council votes to set up a "steering committee" to review the Task Force Report and recommend whether or not to move ahead on the LVEC proposal. The mayor insists that the terms of reference of the steering committee rule out any comparative consideration of alternative sites. Some councillors express opposition to this; others express misgivings over the financing suggestions in the Report. The Steering Committee consisted of Mayor Rosen, Councillors Foster and Rick Downes, with two more to be named by the Mayor; (these were Floyd Patterson and George Stoparczyk). The "Steering Committee" was to report to Council by June 8.

May 7, 2004: Councillor Rick Downes hosts a packed public meeting at which a member of the public questions the propriety of Foster's membership on the "steering committee".

May 11, 2004: Councillor Foster steps down from the "Steering Committee" (by now called the "Review Committee") (Whig Standard, May 12)

May 17 , 2004: At a meeting of the Review Committee, mayor Rosen says there would be no LVEC or parking facilities built on any of the Douglas Fluhrer parkland. Councillor Foster explains that the public's impression that parkland was to be used is due to a "misrepresentation". The Task Force Report had described the Inner Harbour site as "comprised of the Anglin parking lot...Metal Craft Marine, Kingston Marina and Douglas Fluhrer Park." (p. 13) ( Months later, it is discovered that GIS maps used by the Task Force show clearly a contemplated location of the LVEC encroaching on Fluhrer Park. (link showing GIS map and LVEC footprint.) The maps were included in the two boxes of LVEC documentation sequestered in the Mayor's office, and eventually released in August under the Whig Standard's application under the Freedom of Information Act.) Following the reassurance about parkland, the chair of the Task Force was asked about the possibility that building the LVEC might require filling in part of Anglin Bay. At the Portsmouth Public Meeting on May 27, she would not rule out that possibility.

June 8, 2004: Whig Standard reveals that a recently commissioned consultant's study (The Cromarty Report) on the Memorial Centre was kept from Council and senior staff - this in spite of the fact that it had been made available to the Task Force, which had never mentioned the study in its list of appendices in the Report.

June 8, 2004: The Mayor and Councillor Foster attack Councillor Downes for having made the Cromarty Report available to the Whig Standard.

June 8, 2004: The "Review Committee" reports to Council, recommending that Council support moving forward on the basis of the Task Force Report. In the "Committee of the Whole" debate, many councillors claim that supporting the recommendation is the only way to get enough information to decide whether or not to support the LVEC proposal: all but two (Downes and Garrison) vote to move ahead.

June 14, 2004: Citizens seeking access to two boxes of LVEC reference material sequestered in the Mayor's office are told that the material is confidential and cannot be released to either Council or the public. (Whig Standard, June 15)

June 15, 2004: Council votes formally to move ahead on the LVEC project, and charges city staff with preparing a report on the nature of preliminary studies to be done, and their estimated cost. KCAL announces its formation to fight the LVEC proposal.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004: In the wake of the revelation of the hidden Cromarty Report, Councillor Beavis moves that Council be given regular notice of reports commissioned by City Hall staff. The motion is defeated but eventually passed at the July 13 Council meeting.

July 13, 2004: Council receives and supports a City Report outlining "implementation" plans for the LVEC, and recommending the appointment of a Steering Committee with a preliminary budget of $235,000.00 for preliminary functional studies and the appointment of a Project Manager. Council appoints Mayor Rosen and Councillor Ed Smith to the Steering Committee, with city manager Bert Meunier as a non-voting member. In an 8--7 vote, Council resolves to advertise for the 3 citizen positions on the Steering Committee, overruling the mayor's preference for directly appointing them.

Friday, August 6, 2004: The Whig Standard reveals the existence of the January 20 "Concept Plan" for residential redevelopment of the Memorial Centre Park, after the City released formerly confidential LVEC reference material.

August 17, 2004: Council selects three citizen members for the Steering Committee: Michael Ross, an architect and facility development at KGH and Providence Continuing Care Centre, George Hood, a vice principal of Queen's, and Mac Gervan, a contractor who has worked on several heritage projects, including Bajus Brewery. Those who support Rosen's arena plans favoured Hood; another candidate supported by this group was defeated in favour of Gervan.

August 23, 2004: A citizens' group reveals plans to fight to block the sale of the Memorial Centre park for residential development (Whig Standard, August 23) and announces a public meeting to be held on September 27 to discuss the Memorial Centre issue.

September 14, 2004: At a meeting of the new Steering Committee, Task Force members admitted that their cost estimates were a "shot in the dark," and that the possible range was up to $54 million. (Whig Standard, September 15)

September 27, 2004: At a packed public meeting, angry Williamsville residents and supporters across Kingston demand that councillor Ed Smith "take the Memorial entirely off the table". Smith denies supporting the sale of the Memorial Centre property, despite reports to the contrary in the Whig Standard of April 19. (Whig Standard, September 28, 2004)

September 30, 2004: The city announces the appointment of Don Gedge as the Project Manager for the LVEC, with a three year contract at $100,000 per year, even though Council had only authorized a total of funds for the remainder of this year. (Whig Standard, Oct. 1)

Further Links:

1. A Military Project Manager Analysis

2. Item from the latest "Pic Press" entitled: "Following the money..."

3. Whig editorials: (Whig articles, letters and editorials may be obtained from ProQuest database, through the Kingston Public Library's website.)

"Report Clouds Arena Process", June 9, 2004

"Next for LVEC: Vital Questions" June 10, 2004

"Arena Champions Fumble Badly" June 16, 2004

"Take High Road, Arena Supporters" June 17, 2004

"We Need Full Disclosure" June 22, 2004

PHASE II:  Continuing the story: October 2004 to April 2005.

October 1, 2004: Newly hired LVEC project manager Don Gedge said he believes the LVEC could be built for perhaps $20 million less than the possible $54 million suggested last month by task force members. (Whig, Oct. 2, 2004)

October 19, 2004: At a Steering Committee meeting (these are held at 7:00 a.m.!), Gedge unveiled a "work plan" for the LVEC. During the meeting a KCAL member asked whether the process would address zoning issues. "No", said Mr. Gedge. According to the Steering Committee minutes of this meeting, Mr. Gedge advised that the site was currently zoned commercial and that zoning is not an issue. Subsequently, Mr. Meunier advised that the Planning Staff have confirmed that the use is acceptable for that piece of land. After the meeting, another of our members had a quiet talk with Mr. Gedge and Mr. Meunier, pointing out that there were indeed zoning issues. As a result, Mr. Gedge has since acknowledged that it will be necessary to address these issues.

(Link: Comment by Betty Harlow, dated Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2004, in http://lvec.ca/comments.htm)

Oct. 26, 2004: At a raucous meeting, Council approved the priority ranking of 3 top initiatives for their term: Ravensview upgrade, the LVEC, and the Multiplex. The mayor insisted that councillors must approve the group as a whole, not one at a time. Downes and Garrison argued that this amounted to manipulating Council into approving the LVEC project before studies were available as a basis for making an informed decision. (Whig, Oct. 27)

November 9, 2004: At a crowded council meeting, Steve Garrison presented a motion asking Council to commit to continuing the Memorial Centre site for public recreational use. Council voted 7-6 to refer (not "defer" as erroneously reported in the Whig, Nov. 10) the motion to the new Multiplex Steering Committee. The mayor had encouraged this as a way of avoiding the issue, but this decision later backfired. See March 15, 2005.

November 17, 2004: As Gedge addressed the annual BIA general meeting, city hall employees distributed 100 mock "believe in the dream" tickets to an opening LVEC Tragically Hip concert. Tickets were handed out in the following days to city hall employees. (Whig, Dec. 21)

November 23, 2004: At an LVEC Steering Committee, under questioning from the public, committee chair Ed Smith finally admitted that there was no public consultation on the Inner Harbour site prior to its selection. (Steering Committee Minutes for Nov. 23)

December 2, 2004: Council approves a "Standing Committee" system with new rules preventing citizens from directly addressing Council on any matters before a Standing Committee; instead, they are to address the relevant Standing committee. Mayor Rosen pointed out, however, that this would not prevent citizens from speaking before Council on LVEC matters, as the LVEC steering committee is not a standing committee. (Whig, Dec. 3, 2004)

December 29, 2004: Rogers announces the purchase of Toronto=s SkyDome for $25 million. The original 1989 $600 million price was mainly funded by taxpayers. (Link to "Canoe" website in "Archives": http://money.canoe.ca/News/Other/2004/11/29/740158-cp html.

January 25, 2005: Concept Plan for the LVEC finally unveiled at the Steering Committee meeting. The drydock and crane are retained on the site along with a small amount of workspace for boats; The LVEC is downsized from 6000 fixed seats to 5000, and from 80,000 sq. ft. to 77,000. The plan recommends that the re-zoning process be started before the end of February. (Whig, Jan. 26)

February 22, 2005: Gedge tells the Steering Committee that the Memorial Centre shouldn't be included in the LVEC financing. (Whig, Feb. 23)

February 26, 2005: In the pages of the Whig, the mayor publicly disagrees with Gedge on the role of the Memorial Centre in the LVEC financing.

March 15, 2005: Multiplex Chair Councillor Kevin George declares his opposition to selling the Memorial Centre and indicates that his multiplex committee may want to locate the multiplex on that site. (Whig, March 15, 2005)

April 6/7, 2005: Gedge finally releases the long awaited LVEC Business Plan. (Link to excerpts from Business plan and comments) A public meeting on April 7 permits only questions, not comments.

April 16, 2005: A long article in the Whig by Derek Baldwin reveals serious flaws in the Business Plan and calls into question its revenue assumptions.

April 20, 2005: Parking and Traffic Study is released.

April 21, 2005: KCAL finds major errors in the parking study. See: http://lvec.ca/TrafficParkingViabilityStudyAnalysis.html and http://lvec.ca/ParkingAndTrafficStudyProblems.html

April 24, 2005: in describing the LVEC public meeting sponsored by the Steering Committee, the city website states that there will be no opportunity for delegates to speak before Council on the LVEC, due to the new rules adopted in December. This is in spite of the fact that in December, the mayor had specifically stated that as the LVEC Steering Committee wasn't a standing committee, citizens would have an opportunity to address Council directly on LVEC matters.

April 25, 2005: public meeting on LVEC project before LVEC Steering Committee. Speakers were allowed 3 minutes each. Roughly 50 people spoke; at least 28 were opposed. Nearly all in favour were connected with downtown business.

April 26, 2005: at its early morning meeting, the LVEC Steering Committee approved the Business Plan with no mention of any opinions expressed during the previous evening’s public meeting.

(Here is a link to the letter to council on this from Robert Mackenzie, posted April 28)

PHASE III: May 2005–November 1, 2005: End Game

May 3, 2005: Council debates the Business Plan: by now, serious doubts are raised among 8 of the 13 councillors. Councillor Beth Pater proposes an amendment to pass the Business Plan tentatively, conditional on a Market Study.  The amended motion passes 8–5, with the support of three “swing” councillors: Pater, Sutherland and Bittu George.  Opposed are Downes, Garrison, Kevin George, Meers and Beavis. 

May 12, 2005: preliminary LVEC designs and digital “images” are released, showing a huge glass hangar-like structure filling the entire boatyard site, along with a large bandshell on the spit facing Frontenac Village; also showing winter boat storage on the spit.

May 17, 2005: Re-zoning signage is posted on park and buildings on the LVEC site.

May 18, 2005: At a public meeting to discuss parking and concept plan, City officials admit arena parking will cover half the nearby park (Whig, May 19).  Public display of LVEC pictures shows human figures for “scale” which turn out to be distorted (the figures would have had to be 12 ft. tall!) At the same public meeting,  parking consultant Gordon was asked about the effect of LVEC parking on downtown restaurants.  He suggested that people would have to learn to come downtown on non-LVEC nights. 

May 19, 2005: Architect admits that the LVEC building is five ft. taller than shown.(Whig, May 20)

May 27-30, 2005: Environmental Phase I and II Site Assessment (for publicly owned portion of site only) is released, showing serious contamination of soil and groundwater requiring extensive cleanup and/or engineered containment features built into the LVEC structure.

June 4, 2005: The Whig reports that a second planning meeting is to be held on July 14, with recommendations to be forwarded to council by July 19. 

June 6, 2005: City publishes agenda for the statutory Public Meeting on the proposed O.P. and Zoning changes.  The agenda describes Metalcraft Marine’s buildings as “currently being used for industrial marine purposes, specifically boat repairs and maintenance”

June 8, 2005: Metalcraft Marine announces contract for  U.S.D. $1.4 million to build a 49ft. Fireboat for Seattle Fire Department.

June 9, 2005: Statutory Public Meeting on proposed zoning changes to accomodate the LVEC.  At this packed meeting, Metalcraft’s lawyer takes the City to task for dragging its feet on relocation negotiations, leaving Metalcraft in limbo unable to commit to new contracts.  He also hints that a full Environmental Assessment might be required, setting the project back years. Metalcraft owners make it clear that they need a waterside location in order to continue their operations. Scores of citizens speak out against the Anglin Bay location. (Whig, June 10) In the meantime , the Planning Committee announces cancellation of the July 14 meeting.

June 15, 2005: The Whig reports that when one of their reporters requested a copy of the Memorial Centre contract between the City and the Frontenacs, details of the contract were blacked out.

July 5, 2005: At what turned out to be the final Steering Committee meeting on the Anglin Bay LVEC, the committee approved the Stakeholders Advisory Group Report, which ignores many concerns put forward by residents, particularly about noise pollution and the proposed bandshell.  The Report recommends replacing the marina’s seasonal boat storage and services with transient slips only.  Kingston Marina was not represented on the Stakeholders’ Group (see letter from Kingston Marina manager Sandy Crothers, Whig, July 29)

July 19, 2005: Council approves a $40,000 market study by the firm Deliotte and Touche.

August 2, 2005: Heritage Newspaper reports that the consultant chosen for the Market Study, Ron Bidulka, had advised the LVEC Task Force on market matters and had declared a year ago, 2005: “Absolutely. I do believe there is a market for a 6500 seat LVEC”.  (A look at the acknowledgements section of the Task Force Report confirms Mr. Bidulka’s role)

August 15, 2005: City Planning officials confirm that a second Planning Committee meeting to consider LVEC zoning changes has been postponed until at least late October, pending completion of a peer review of the Traffic and Parking Study.

August 26, 2005: Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip announces the formation of a group, “Friends of the Entertainment Centre” with a new website designed to promote support for the Anglin Bay LVEC.  The website features an image of the Anglin Bay LVEC which distorts the arena’s height. (“Friends Distort Arena’s Size”,Whig Standard, August 28) The website invites readers to support an online petition in favour of the Anglin Bay site.

August 26, 2005: The City Website posts an “LVEC Backgrounder” set in the future, claiming that: “Most Kingstonians agree that the Entertainment Centre is one of the best investments the City has ever made”.

August 28, 2005: KCAL volunteers begin collecting signatures on a petition against the Anglin Bay LVEC location.

Sept. 1, 2005: in an interview with the Whig, Mayor Harvey Rosen  responded to public queries about his financial interest in the Anglin Bay site due to the possibility that the city would have to purchase Rosen Fuels property if the Wellington Extension were built.  The mayor stated that he had no stake in Rosen Fuels, which is owned by his sister.  And even though his own company, Rosen Corporation, owns property in the area, his ownership doesn’t constitute a controlling interest.

 Then he said that opponents of the Anglin Bay site were “grasping at straws” and that he had not heard any “convincing arguments based on facts on the ground, logical, reasonable, compelling arguments” against the site.

Sept. 6, 2005: Council hears an oral report on the Market Study which gives “thumbs up” to the LVEC plan.  However, they will not vote on the full report until September 20.  Two key supporters of the LVEC plan were absent from the Sept. 6 meeting.

September 14, 2005: An initial public meeting to set up an umbrella group of Kingston Ratepayers, hosted by Howard Stone, is held in Memorial Hall.  Taxpayers speak in protest against what they regard as an unrepresentative city government, citing the LVEC plans. (Whig, Sept. 15)

September 17-20, 2005: Friends of the Entertainment Centre run full page ads in The Whig, Kingston This Week and The Heritage Newpaper showing 600 names of supporters in the background.  Some readers claim that they recognize some names of young children.  They also run an an intense radio ad series. 

September 20, 2005: KCAL announces the results of the petition against the Anglin Bay site: 3700 signatures from across Kingston.  (By November, there were 4300) These results are presented at that evening’s Council Meeting

At the same meeting, Council is asked to vote to approve the LVEC Business Plan and construction of the LVEC “at a downtown site”. By now it appears that a majority of councillors are unwilling to support the Anglin Bay site because of concerns over unknown land costs and relocating Metalcraft.  Councillor Sutherland and Pater propose an amendment requiring a “comprehensive study of the North Block” as a possible alternative site . The amended motion carries: 8–5, with Downes, Garrison, Kevin George, Meers and Beavis opposed.  The strongest supporters of the Anglin Bay site vote reluctantly for the amended motion, stating that they still believe Anglin Bay is the best site, but are willing to compromise in order to save the project.  Councillor Downes argues that Anglin Bay is still not “off the table.”  

Sept. 22, 2005: In a Whig story about the North Block possibility, former Task Force member Ken Wong hints that building the LVEC there would require sacrificing local businesses such as Food Basics. (Whig, Sept. 23)

Sept. 23, 2005: Don Gedge tells KCAL that all work on Anglin Bay is being stopped.

Sept.24, 2005: In an interview with the Whig, former mayor Helen Cooper backs the North Block site, and reminds readers that when she was mayor sixteen years earlier, council voted for an arena complex on the North Block, which was never built due to financial constraints.

Sept. 30, 2005: City website finally mentions the North Block site, but retains the pro Anglin Bay “LVEC Backgrounder” until pressure from KCAL leads to its removal.

Oct. 3, 2005: Whig reports on the weekend “Design Charette” for the Memorial Centre with a proposed reconfiguring of the park and building for community use.  Councillor Ed Smith says “Council is going to be excited about the project.”

Oct. 8, 2005: Kingston This Week reports that councillor Kevin George is willing to support the North Block under certain conditions. (such as the building of a parking garage)

Oct. 12, 2005: Councillor Rick Downes holds a public meeting of his constituents to hear their views on the North Block.  Many urge more consideration of the Memorial Centre site.

Oct. 21, 2005: Metalcraft Marine holds a well attended Open House, thanking Kingston for “saving our Shipyard” and hoping to inform a broader public about what they do.

Oct. 28, 2005: Two weeks ahead of schedule, the City releases the North Block Study showing a slightly smaller LVEC on just one block of the North Block, bounded by Ontario, Place D’Armes, King and Barrack..  The plan does not require street closings or encroach on any businesses.  However, to accomodate it, King, Barrack and Place D’Armes are to be narrowed.

Oct. 31, 2005: The Agenda for the Nov. 1 Council Meeting includes a motion to locate the LVEC on the North Block and to cease all work and negotiations on the Inner Harbour site.  The motion also includes a clause apparently giving the mayor carte blanche to “execute all related contracts and agreements...”  KCAL members alert council members to this.  As a result, the wording of the motion is changed so as to make the LVEC process accountable to Council.

Nov. 1, 2005: Council votes 9–4 to approve the North Block site, and 12–1 to remove Anglin Bay from consideration.  (The dissenting vote was Task Force Chair Leonore Foster).  Councillor Rick Downes tries to get Council to formally approve a motion to retain the Memorial Centre for public use.  Although many councillors state that they would oppose any sale of the Memorial Centre, his motion fails. 

 

Last updated November 28 2005