Welcome to Kingston's new large-venue entertainment centre, The Millstone.
Sounds good, eh? It's time we called a spade a spade and accepted what we've all known and feared all along: that the downtown sports and entertainment centre is becoming a burdensome responsibility. Will its costs eventually be heaped on the backs of lowly taxpayers who probably won't be able to afford to attend events there, even if they were willing to freeze their arses off in winter while they walked the the facility from God knows where they finally found a place to park?
Kingstonians, with a tax hike looming, surely could use a little bit of monetary invention, and let's forget about the hinted-at contribution from the federal government. It ain't gonna happen. Whatever happened to the advice, "Spend what you have in your hand, not what you hope someone will give you?" Maybe we should pray for higher involvement, as in the Biblical days of Noah, but pray that rain and not money will fall from the heavens and float the ark - oops, I meant The Millstone.
Can't you just see it ? Good old Canadian cash, and even lowly American money (all denominations accepted, even a lowly fiver) would come filtering down from the heavens - like rain falling on Mount Ararat, the reputed resting place of Noah's Ark - on our financially parched Kingston.
Kingstonians would all head downtown to the sports and entertainment centre armed with bags, stuff the bags with money and hand them over to Mayor Harvey Rosen. And naysayers who said he couldn't build now and pay later would admit their folly. Yep, if you build it they will come. They just may not find a place to park, that's all.
But who knows? Now that the facility has named itself, it might even come up with additional ways to raise money, maybe even for enough seats so as to entice the likes of Celine Dion to town. Imagine the traffic jam that would cause. Hey, I wonder if anybody still has Wayne Newton's number? Remember when the powers-that-be in Kingston brought Wayne here to perform at the Memorial Centre and pack them in? Oops, it wasn't exactly a tight fit, eh, and the event lost money. But, anyway, it was a start.
I'm only trying to help because in the long run, I figure it's me and the rest of the taxpayers of Kingston who'll end up paying through the nose for the sports and entertainment centre, regardless of what is said at city council meetings or what falls from heaven.
In my world of lower-class and middle-class taxpayers, it's known that what you owe, you pay. We don't buy homes on the fictitious assumption that someone will bail us out if we run into financial trouble, and if we do run into trouble, we're responsible, not other people. Increasingly, the sports and entertainment centre brings this line of thinking to mind. As a senior citizen with a fixed income, this situation scares me. I hope we haven't dug a hole we won't be able to get out of.
A downtown arena? That was never a practical idea, but the facility is being built now and we're stuck with it. Will I be making a donation to the arena fund? No. First of all, I can't afford it, and secondly, there's the location. Who will benefit the most from an arena at the downtown site? The people living downtown. Who would have benefited most from a facility built in an outlying area of Kingston? The whole city. It's about all of us, not just the downtown area. Folks would still have gone to the restaurants, hotels and shops downtown, but now it's too late.
We're stuck with this facility, so what do we do?
We drove past the site recently. The sports and entertainment centre is going to be impressive; just don't step off the curb because vehicles pack big wallops. How much space for walking is there around the perimeter of the building? Surely there must be more than there appeared to be when we were driving past.
Will this be a wonderful building? Of course. Will the lack of parking be the main deterrent to people attending events there? Next to building the facility without knowing where all the money to build it was coming from, that is the biggest problem. But hey, what can we expect? Wasn't there a time when there was a plan to build the arena on property the city didn't even own? Talk about cheeky.
I worked for 10 years in downtown Kingston. I knows this magnificent city with its stone architecture, parks and shoreline. It's beautiful. But from late fall until spring, I avoid walking more than a block in the downtown. The winds off Lake Ontario especially adore Princess and Brock streets. They dance their frigid dance along the length of these streets, freezing flesh, fingers and fannies.
I can't even imagine women or men dressed to the nines for a performance, or even properly garbed for a hockey game, wending their way downtown to the sports and entertainment centre in winter. But I hope they will.
- Barbara Wamboldt is a fine arts graduate and Kingston freelance writer. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.