This is Mary Louise Adams' presentation to the LVEC public meeting held April 25th 2005 at City Hall.
The draft Business Plan for the proposed LVEC claims that the project will deliver economic benefits to the City of Kingston. Indeed, this is the main argument presented to justify public investment in the project.
If that were indeed to happen, the LVEC would be unique in North America.
It cannot be stressed enough: Research on the economics of sports venues is unequivocal. Sports facilities are not the development engines that their boosters claim them to be. For more than twenty years, studies by disinterested economists have failed to find evidence of urban economic growth as a result of sports facility developments. On what grounds, therefore, should we believe that Kingston is going to be the first to buck this trend?
Certainly the business plan doesn’t give us such grounds. On page 18 we read: “Determining with accuracy the direct and indirect impact of an LVEC on the downtown and surrounding region ... is a complex and expensive study. This type of comprehensive study is outside the scope of the business plan.”
Well, this type of comprehensive study is exactly what councillors and citizens need to determine if this project is reasonable given its huge (and likely to escalate) cost. Instead of solid research, the business plan gives us anecdotal evidence of how things are going in other cities...anecdotes provided primarily by officials in those cities — individuals who clearly have a vested interest in presenting best-case scenarios of how their projects are playing out.
The business plan also fails to deliver any market research — again that too is deemed too complex. Yet such research is essential to justify public spending in the range of $40 million. And such research is essential when experiences in other cities (Guelph for instance) suggest that demand for sport-entertainment facilities is not as high as LVEC promoters claim, and that it falls off as the honeymoon phase in new facilities wears off.
Clearly this business plan is not a dispassionate attempt to assess the suitability of the Anglin Bay site, nor the scope of the project. It is a promotional tool to secure permission to proceed on the project.
Thus it neglects to detail direct and indirect costs of such a huge project.
-The Plan fails to detail the immediate total financial cost of the project — including the costs not detailed in the plan (land acquisition, removal of the drydock, etc.).
-The Plan fails to admit to the cost of the inevitable tax increases that are sure to follow this project
-The Plan fails to detail the lost opportunity costs — if city money is tied up in this project it can’t be doing other things — When will citizens of Kingston be given the opportunity to assess the relative value of the LVEC in these terms?
-The Plan fails to detail the cost of the loss of open waterfront and parkland .... the things that make the downtown an inviting place to live (and we know that it is actually encouraging people to live downtown that has the greatest revitalizing effect on the urban economy)
-finally, and most importantly, the Plan fails to consider the political and social costs of the process.....One can imagine a process where the possibility of a new sports-entertainment centre would help to bring a community together, where it would strengthen neighbourhoods, fulfill needs, fire the civic imagination, and deepen the investment of citizens in their hometown. But not here. The speed of this entire process, the lack of meaningful consultation with citizens groups — that is consultation that actually is permitted to have an impact on the process — all of these have polarized our city. No building, however glamourous, is worth that.