The City’s website now prominently displays a photo of a corner of the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario. This corner utilized the façade of a pre-existing hotel and is indeed an impressive picture. Its intent must be to suggest to the public that the JLC should be the model for Kingston. However an objective look at the two shows very little in common.
Mr. Don Gedge recently commented that the showplace arena is a primary reason for drawing sell-out hockey crowds. He doesn’t mention that the London Knights have excellent ownership, management, coaching, players, and have been rated number one in the country since the beginning of the season. On their most recent four game eastern swing they sold-out the Peterborough MEMORIAL Centre, the Belleville Yardmen Arena, the Kingston Memorial Centre and the Ottawa Civic Centre. It seems like the venue has little effect of London’s ability to sell-out games. Scuttlebutt at the Frontenacs’ games is that the additional expense and hassles associated with the proposed location will actually decrease the already low attendance.
The City website does not show the site plan for the area surrounding the JLC. If it did, the public would see that it is accessible from all directions, and is surrounded by 62 parking lots: the majority within one and one-half blocks. The JLC website advertises 8,000 parking spaces within walking distance.
The site itself was not in a residentially zoned area. It did not require the “moving” of a manufacturing facility, the “seizing” of community parkland, nor was it adjacent to what was recently described in a Whig Standard article as already being one of the best downtowns in Ontario. How much effect the JLC has had on London’s downtown revitalization, if any are debatable if one checks out public websites such as electorsform.com or kcal.ca.
The only similarity between the London and Kingston situations is that in both cases city councilor fastracked the project. In London, it got so far that it was deemed too difficult and expensive to turn back. The London Free Press dated November 27, 2004 reported that taxpayers were facing an 8% tax increase of which $4.5 million alone was for servicing the debt on the JLC.
There is one notable difference that Mr. Gedge would have to acknowledge. The London arena is not on, (or in view of the recent site plan should I say “in”) the water. He says Kingston needs a signature building on the waterfront. Strange, but it appears that he has not noticed that Kingston already has one. It's called City Hall.
P.S. Here's a parking diagram of the area around the John Labatt Centre in London. Note all the "P"s.