Use this URL for your news reader: http://lvec.ca/KCalNewsAndArticles.XML
The Kingston Taxpayers Association has posted a page that details all the Council votes related to the LVEC. There are also pages related to the Market Square renaming fiasco as well as for other contentious issues from this term of Council.
Spot any patterns?
How well does your current councillor represent your civic values?
Kingston's MPP says the city can spend a surprise $4.85-million grant announced in the provincial budget indirectly on a downtown entertainment centre.Read the whole thing.
The Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre has been a positive addition to this community, providing badly needed recreational ice time and a nifty showcase for its premier sports team, the Sarnia Sting. But the centre never became the "showplex" envisioned by proponents.
More proof of that arrived this week when London dropped its bid to host the 2009 world junior hockey championship. London had approached Sarnia council about jointly hosting the games. The bid was doomed to fail. As Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley put it, organizers wanted $1.5 million up front from taxpayers and revenue of $2 million. Yet they offered no guarantee of hosting any of the good games here.
When supporters pushed for a multi-purpose centre a decade ago, the world juniors were, like the Memorial Cup, help up as one of the events for which Sarnia could compete. But the reality is that junior hockey has become big business, one too rich for the blood of small-market teams.
CKWS-TV ran this story about the recent money announced by Queen's Park. Therein:
Towns and cities fared better in the budget.Indeed.
In Kingston, an extra 5 million dollars for road and bridge repairs. But the mayor is disappointed the LVEC project got no mention.
"We're only permitted to use the 4.8 million dollars for roads and bridges without exercising any discretion as a municipality as to what infrastructure is most in need of investment."
....like the LVEC.
But Municipal Affairs Minister says Kingston can get creative with the 4.8 million earmarked for roads. He says city council can use any or all of it for the sports and entertainment centre.
"It could very well be that city council may want to restructure some of its priorities that it had budgeted for this coming year but that's up to this council to decide."
Shifting new roads money to the LVEC project may the only way Kingston gets any provincial money for its signature arena.
... a move that could trigger a local budget battle.
We've just posted a new article titled A Closer Look at LEED. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and it's being given far more importance than many other things in the proposed LVEC project. We're predicting that the LEED "Silver" rating target is going to be missed by a wide margin and, given all the other constraints (including money, space, time, bargaining leverage) that LEED is going to fall by the wayside in short order.
Were that not enough, the same document proposes that the $504,100 in direct costs that were wasted on the Anglin Bay site be financed from the City's working reserve fund.
Note that the upside maximum for this project has already been set at $37.3 million. Reading between the lines, we should brace ourselves for the first of many upward adjustments of this amount.
Update: Council voted 7-6 against drawing the $504,100 from the working reserve fund. This means the money will be charged against the LVEC budget, as it should.
Update: Here is CKWS-TV's report on the matter.
We wonder if Councillor Bittu George is being misquoted.
In the absence of a handout from Ottawa or Queen's Park, George's support has waned.Er, even disregarding federal and provincial funding, the taxpayer is already on the hook, "picking up the tab".
Without the grants, the other option would appear to be asking taxpayers to pick up the tab, he said.
"I can't see how or why we would proceed with this," he said. "That just puts us in a much tighter financial situation and you run the potential of costing the taxpayers money and then you get into a real situation where taxpayers are going to have to pay for this."
There's more: Councillor George sits on the Board of Directors of KEDCO, and thus shares responsibility for the KEDCO whitewash of the Anglin Bay LVEC project (see also here and here), and shares some measure of responsiblity for this Council's supine position towards the downtown business interests who are the only drivers, and the only people who get true "face time" where this poject is concerned.
We welcome Councillor George's well-founded concerns, but we wish he'd taken this stand a year ago when the case for concern was already clear prior to this set of May 3 2005 council votes that would have saved taxpayers a lot of money by redirecting the project away from Anglin Bay six months sooner, and prior to the overwhelming citizen's revolt which has haunted this project ever since.
The following article talks about the quickly escalating cost of water in the Toronto area. Many of the same water infrastructure problems face us here in Kingston. All this makes you wonder why we are raiding our municipal reserve funds to build projects such as the LVEC.
There's an interesting and link-rich new item on the Kingston Oh Kingston blog about more or less comparable LVEC experiences elsewhere in North America. This dovetails well with some of our research about buildings in other OHL cities. All this supports the notion that estimates of costs and economic benefits made by promoters of sports and entertainment stadiums should never be taken at face value.
Here's a transcript of part two of CKWS-TV's road trip to just one other city with an LVEC-like building. This episode focuses more on the financial downsides in London, which has a building, a site, and a capture area that are almost totally incomparable to Kingston's.
"We do make a little bit of money but it was never built to make money. These buildings do not generate enough money to pay for the capital that's in them and if that's what people expect then you shouldn't build it."Memo to city staff: stop the pretense of covering capital costs.
"You know none of these things are risk free just understand your risk. I'm not for one minute saying Kingston and area shouldn't do something like that but just be aware of what some of the risks, what some of the costs really are."In Kingston there are no risks, no foreseeable cost overruns worthy of mere mention. It's a slam-dunk, lead-pipe cinch. According to Harvey Rosen's acolytes, each ticket sold will generate $73 in economic benefits1 for Kingston.
Here's the transcript of the first of two installments of CKWS-TV's road trip to other cities with LVECs. In this episode they mostly feature proponents of the John Labatt Centre in London, including the Mayor and representatives of Global Spectrum, the company that runs the facility. As you might expect, it's all rosy and good. Apparently tomorrow's episode is about some of the downsides.
A local blogger writes: Let's get real about the Large Venue Entertainment Center. Good points, read the whole thing.
A front-page story in today's whig describes former mayor Helen Cooper's feelings about raiding the city's Capital Reserve Fund to build the proposed Entertainment Centre. This dovetails with an article published last Saturday that describes former mayor Gary Bennett's similar feelings.
In today's article, councillor Ed Smith is quoted.
"Obviously it's important to have good water and sewers and that type of facilities, but it's not what makes your town great," Smith said in an interview. "I certainly think using the reserve fund in a responsible way, meaning not taking huge portions of it... for the LVEC is a responsible way to use it."
He said "quality-of-life infrastructure" is an important component of bringing jobs and tax-base growth to Kingston.
"I think that's one of the areas we have significantly lagged behind," he said.
Smith said the recent layoff of more than 250 Bell call centre workers in Kingston is an example of the necessity for Kingston to significantly diversify.
"Industry and business and service industry, technology-based businesses want quality-of-life facilities in communities before they'd consider moving jobs here or expanding their business base," he said.
"It's an element that this community has ignored compared to other communities in Ontario and Canada for the last 15 years, and if we need to take some of our reserve money to get that off the ground, I have no problem with that."
Apparently Ed Smith feels that an OHL arena, designed and built to minimum urban standards, will make Kingston great, and serve as an economic motor to attract high-tech businesses to Kingston. Fortunately for all Kingstonians, Mr Smith, who has botched everything he's touched in the LVEC dossier (also here and here), has no chance of reelection in November.
We've posted some comments on the Design/Build RFP for the proposed LVEC.
The selection of any successful Proponent will be by Kingston City Council upon review and recommendation made to it by the Technical Evaluation Committee.Comment: For prudence, probity, transparency, it is always a good practice to have a qualified third party, not a part of the process to date, evaluate and make the recommendations. This should also ensure that the process is fair. As it currently stands, Page 7 indicates that the "Technical Evaluation Committee will be made up of representatives from the Steering Committee, the LVEC Project Director, City Staff and other consultants as required". The City should be taken to task for not ensuring an open, fair, and unbiased assessment of all the Proponents submissions.
Comment: ; On Page 10: ; The City has tasked the Proponents to provide a facility and that it
be designed as a signature building recognizing its inner action with a regenerating historical urban downtown settingand furthermore
to reflect and enhance the urban fabric of the area.
and on and on and on.
Baird Sampson of Neuert Architects was commissioned by the City in January 2006 to extend an earlier study titled " Urban Design Guidelines for the North Block Central Business District". ; Their findings, guidelines, and recommendations are attached as a document to the RFP to assist the Proponents with their design. However, in the Evaluation Criteria Table on Page 7, they are willing to allocate a maximum of 10 points out of the 600 or 1.67% for Proponents who adhere and respect those guidelines. ;
Comment: The Performance Specifications permit an incredible amount of leeway in terms of design and construction. They essentially require the contractor to meet the requirements of the OBC. ; So much for a signature, state of the art, classy facility.
Comment: Archaeological issues, most notably Fort Frontenac, may be an issue, and could lead to delays in the project delivery or project gold-plating, and hence cost overruns.
Other communities, such as Sarnia and Guelph, attempted to sell naming rights after their facilities opened and were unsuccessful.
Here in Kingston, the term "naming rights" is mentioned 10 times in the increasingly obsolete LVEC Business Plan and, back in April 2005, the city was hoping to get $150,000 per year for those rights. The plan cites a 60% no-sale probability which, given the evidence elsewhere, is looking rather low. It would have been more prudent to not factor naming rights, but then again, this arena project is all about shamelessly manufacturing imaginary benefits.
At next Tuesday's Council meeting, Gerard Hunt, Commissioner of Finance and Corporate Performance of the City of Kingston presents to Council his 4th quarter 2005 capital budget status report. Buried within unsearchable scanned graphics (as opposed to text which is easily searched) is the following information about LVEC project expenses. $719,843 to December 31 2005.
It's not clear whether this figure includes the considerable municipal staff time and other overhead allocations. We're guessing it doesn't.
Mr Hunt, we'd like to know why you submit this straightforward tabular information to Council and the citizens of Kingston, year after year, in scanned format which cannot be electronically searched? Try searching for "LVEC" in this PDF document. This key information is unduely invisible for search. Why?
CKWS-TV reports that the Springer family, owners of the Kingston Frontenacs, are close to signing a long-term deal with the city to play in the proposed LVEC. Apparently this would be a 20-year lease.
As usual, it's all happening behind closed doors. We understand that a long-term lease is required to land crucial funding, but normally a design comes first, followed by a detailed cost estimate, and then comes draft agreements with tennants. We believe that the City of Kingston is doing things backward for the sake of expediency. When the the developer is also the regulator anything is possible, just like in cartoons.
The recent past has been very, very good for the Springer family. In 2005 the City sold them perpetual naming rights to Kingston's Market Square for less than one-fifth the cost of a single Square renovation. More recently the City has chosen to build a swimming-pool-less multiplex (a singleplex?) adjacent to large tracts of development land owned by the Springers. Now we're hearing of a 20-year deal to have the Springer's OHL team play in the proposed taxpayer-funded LVEC, a deal hatched and negotiated long before a detailed facility design is established, and costs are realistically estimated. Such is the rush to get the LVEC rammed-through before the next municipal election, and such is the sway of the downtown-business-buddies-first culture at Mayor Rosen's City Hall.
Compare Kingston's secretive and rushed practices with what happened in Oshawa where the business terms between the City of Oshawa and the Oshawa Generals Hockey Club were publicly disclosed and attached to the detailed RFP documents to builder candidates for the $45 million, 5,400-seat Oshawa Sports and Entertainment Facility (see also here) which is currently under construction.
Sometime this weekend we'll mark the passing of eight months since the LVEC steering committee last publicly met.
Compare Oshawa's September 10 2004 RFP to the LVEC design/build RFP released by Kingston last month. There are many glaring differences in the quality of the specification, which we hope to analyze in some depth very soon.
What's most intriguing is Kingston is proposing to take 3-weeks to evaluate the RFP's, whereas Oshawa planned two months for the same activity. Oshawa allowed 2 months between winning party notification and signing agreements, whereas it's clear that Kingston's not planning to negotiate for very long, so ripe it is for the picking.
Here's an interesting link to the Feb 10th announcement of the 64 comminities that split $417M in OSIFA low-cost-loans, including Kingston which got $43M, over 10% of the loot for 5.5% of the population among the municipalities listed.
Belleville's Memorial Arena renovation, on the other hand, may get an $8M loan.
Belleville Intelligencer, Friday, February 17, 2006Not to be confused with the Belleville Yardmen Arena.
Approval for a low-cost $8-million loan from the provincial government may bode well for the future of a downtown landmark. MPP Ernie Parsons announced earlier this week the City of Belleville has been approved for up to $8 million from the Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority (OSIFA) which may be used toward renovations at the Memorial Arena.
Another half-million in LVEC spending approved by Council. Also, Kingston This Week prints this story: City to pay LVEC bidders $50,000 (each) which includes reporting of Councillor Stoparczyk's put-down of City arena employees.
As for the LVEC, parking officials aren't worried, because events will take place at night, when more parking spots are free.That's poppycock. According to the city's own 11-month old LVEC business plan, at least 20% of foreseen LVEC events will be daytime events.