Members of the task force that recommended building a $28.5- million arena on the waterfront asked city residents last night not to let their reservations about aspects of the project derail the whole thing.
In a one-hour televised call-in on Cogeco cable last night, four of the five members of the panel that spent 100 days crafting a report outlining a building to replace the Memorial Centre took turns urging people to not to dismiss the plan.
At two public meetings since the plan came out, angry residents have questioned the cost and location of the proposed facility, known as the large venue entertainment centre, or LVEC, and charged that the traffic and parking issues that would come with it would make it unworkable.
Ken Wong, a member of the committee, noted the distrust many residents have about such city projects and asked residents to have a little more faith.
"Don't automatically discard the project because there is a problem with it," he said.
Added Mike Gillis, a former NHL player and now an agent, "Don't say, 'Don't do this because of this.' Say, 'Do this, but can you do something about this?' "
Kingston General Hospital CEO Joe de Mora noted any plan has its drawbacks and the committee feels the inner Harbour is the best place for the arena, even though it immediately brought up parking and traffic issues.
"There is no perfect LVEC in the world," he said. "They all involve compromises."
Several callers praised the committee's work and the need for a new arena. Members of the panel have long maintained that there's a large group of people who don't speak out at public meetings who support the concept and who have personally told them of their support.
De Mora said those people have to start being more vocal if the project is to work.
"It's time for the silent majority to be a little less silent," he said.
The task force members defended the conclusions of the report when they were challenged by callers, but all admitted the report was a starting point. When it came to very intricate issues like cost and traffic flows, more studies needed to be done.
Wong, a marketing professor at Queen's University, told one caller that the cost of the building was difficult to outline at this point because the committee didn't look deeply into revenues that would come from hosting events, selling naming rights and other factors.
"We didn't get into the operations side of this," he said, "but we are strongly of the belief that this can run at a profit."
Gillis was the most vocal defender of the downtown location, saying every other city that built an arena outside its core regretted it.
He also made the most personal plea, saying he came here more than 30 years ago to play junior hockey in the Memorial Centre. It was decrepit then and nothing has changed, he said.
"This will be a legacy we will leave to our kids," he said of the proposed new facility.
Photo: Michael Lea, The Whig-Standard / Councillors Ed Smith and Floyd Patterson attend a meeting of the review committee on the city's arena proposal