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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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Whig Standard -- April 12 2006

Raising funds for the arena: Support the LVEC?
 Then put your money where your mouth is
 

(Copyright The Kingston Whig-Standard 2006)

Despite all the questions that have arisen, despite a process that was flawed from the beginning, one thing remains indisputable about the city's proposed Large Venue Entertainment Centre: Fundamentally, the community believes it is a good idea.

Amid all the criticisms - wrong location, too small, dubious financing - let us not forget that Mayor Harvey Rosen won the last election by more than 18,000 votes, with a platform largely centred on a pledge to replace the aging Memorial Centre. The significance of defeating an incumbent with that kind of plurality is not to be diminished, and the mandate that flows from that should not be denied.

That's why a referendum on the downtown arena and entertainment centre would have been silly. That voice has already been heard. With a month to go before a council vote that could possibly kill the project, we need to remember how unmistakable that message was.

This leads, however, to one of the more puzzling aspects of the whole arena debate: Where have all those people gone? More precisely, why have none of the 23,179 people who voted for Harvey Rosen's dream not stepped forward to begin a fundraising campaign to help achieve it?

Let us look at a couple of examples that contrast sharply with the LVEC experience. In Napanee three years ago, citizens were rebuffed by council when it came time to build an arena. They were told to raise $425,000 before council would entertain the notion. The campaign grew beyond $1 million by the time it was done. There was no mistaking the public will, and a new arena opened on time.

Fifty-five years ago, our own Memorial Centre was built with money that came not just from senior levels of government, but from citizens who did such basic things as buy raffle tickets and sign up for donations via payroll deductions.

Why has no one from among all those who purport to support the arena shown such initiative? Certainly we see such effort for other civic ventures. A public campaign has raised millions of dollars for the Grand Theatre renovation. The Hockeyville bid has shown how a grassroots campaign can take hold once it captures the imagination of the community.

Think of the ramifications if a person or committee stepped forward to undertake such a fundraising initiative. Those of us who believe the arena is a good idea would have an opportunity to express it in the most tangible, direct way. What better signal to send to the provincial and federal governments than a groundswell of public support, in a way stronger than any petition or grant application could ever express?

Critics of the arena project have been portrayed as negativists and naysayers. Supporters of the project invoke a so-called silent majority of the faithful that is being drowned out in the debate by people they characterize as bent on needlessly scuttling a good thing.

To a large degree, this attitude misses the constructive nature of the criticism that is being offered. If the civic will for an arena is there, however, there's no better way to prove the point than by starting a fundraising campaign. Let's see who - and how many - put some money where their mouths are.

If supporters truly are a majority, why must they stay silent?