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Kingston Concerned About 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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The KCAL News Feed -- March 2006
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March 29, 2006

Kingston Taxpayer Association: LVEC-related votes

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?

Published: 03/29/06 01:34:21 PM
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Whig: Money shuffle could boost arena: MPP

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.
Published: 03/29/06 01:31:33 PM
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March 28, 2006

Sarnia Observer: Arena hasn't lived up to billing
On March 24th The Kingston Whig Standard published this bit taken from the Sarnia Observer about the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre (see April events here):
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.

Published: 03/28/06 10:25:00 AM
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March 25, 2006

CKWS-TV: Budget reactions

CKWS-TV ran this story about the recent money announced by Queen's Park. Therein:

Towns and cities fared better in the budget.
In Kingston, an extra 5 million dollars for road and bridge repairs. But the mayor is disappointed the LVEC project got no mention.

Harvey Rosen:
"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.

John Gerretsen:
"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.

Indeed.
Published: 03/25/06 01:22:29 PM
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March 24, 2006

A closer look at LEED

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.

Published: 03/24/06 01:49:52 AM
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March 21, 2006

Council fast-tracking finance plan, and $504,100 sunk cost for Anglin Bay (Updated again)
According to documents to be tabled tonight the City is proposing to approve the LVEC's financial plan at the same meeting as the recommendation for the design/build team.

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.

We have a suggestion: send the invoice to the BIA (see also here).

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.

Published: 03/21/06 09:56:00 AM
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March 18, 2006

Whig: Arena hangs by a vote (updated)

Today The Whig Standard published this story about Collins-Bayridge district councillor Bittu George's misgivings about the perilous state of the LVEC project's financing.

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.

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."

Er, even disregarding federal and provincial funding, the taxpayer is already on the hook, "picking up the tab". Councillor Bittu George has been an unabashed project backer since day one. Why is he now, suddenly, claiming concern for the costs and risks to be inflicted on Kingston's taxpayers? These costs and risks, and their total omission from official project documentation, have been known for a long time, and the $8m in federal and provincial grants doesn't change things much.

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.

Published: 03/18/06 01:36:09 PM
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Kingston Electors: Water and sewer service before the LVEC

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.

Published: 03/18/06 02:05:27 AM
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Kingston Oh Kingston -- LVEC Projects Elsewhere in North America

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.

Published: 03/18/06 12:42:03 AM
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March 17, 2006

CKWS-TV: JLC London, part two

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.
1 $22.5 million per year divided into 307,000 people per year (projected total attendance) equals $73.29 in so-called economic benefits per person walking through the LVEC turnstiles. As improbable as that seems, of course none of that leaves town in the pockets of touring acts, nor does it leave in the coffers of out-of-town arena management companies.
Published: 03/17/06 02:02:12 AM
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March 15, 2006

CKWS-TV: JLC London, part one

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.

Published: 03/15/06 11:10:42 PM
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Kingston Oh Kingston -- Let's get real about the Large Venue Entertainment Center

A local blogger writes: Let's get real about the Large Venue Entertainment Center. Good points, read the whole thing.

Published: 03/15/06 08:18:00 PM
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Whig: Ex-mayors weigh in

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.

Published: 03/15/06 03:14:11 PM
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March 13, 2006

Comments on the City of Kingston Draft RFP for Design/Build of the LVEC

We've posted some comments on the Design/Build RFP for the proposed LVEC.

Page 6:

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 setting
and 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: All the proposals should be evaluated on technical merit in the first instance. Only then should the price be made available to the evaluators. Access to the Proponent's cost figure for the delivery of the facility very often has a tendency to sway the evaluators. In essence, this should be a two envelope system. We all know just how important the price component will be for the City given the lack of financing available. ;
Comment: The Evaluation Criteria Table asks for a separate price for the LEED component of the work. Incorporating LEED criteria is integral to the design component and is very difficult to price as a standalone component. One wonders if it might become an item for removal for at the negotiation stages in order for the City to meet budget requirements. LEED also has a tendency to extend design and construction timelines as a great deal of effort is required to obtain a Silver designation in LEED. If they are so pro LEED they would have required the proponent to name their sustainable design consultant and insist on people with LEED accreditation.  ;
Comment: Note in the General Terms and Conditions that the City has stated that they are not liable for any costs incurred by the Proponents in preparing their submissions. This seems to be somewhat at odds with the Honorarium section on Page 8 of the RFP wherein the City has promised a $50,000.00 sum for those proponents who score a minimum of 400 out of a possible 600 points. I guess the City's legal/finance folks missed that contradiction in their review of the RFP. Achieving a score of 400 out of 600 is very subjective; the submission requirements and evaluation guidelines are sketchy at best. Our guess is that all the successful Proponents will have no problem achieving the minimum score.  ;
Comment: There is only one thing that the City really knows for sure it wants: ; they have single sourced all seating for the arena. This is roughly a $0.75 million dollar expenditure that is directed to a single company in the States. So much for getting best value for money. Single sourcing flies in the face of prudent expenditure of taxpayers money. With the remainder of the performance specifications being short on detail, one wonders why the arena seating has to be single sourced!


 ;

Comment: The existing environmental constraints could be very large in terms of additional cost, remediation, and the construction schedule.


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.


 ;

Comment: The milestone project schedule has one glaring omission. The successful proponent goes straight from award to design development. What happened to the concept stage?


 ;

General Comment: ; Design/build projects tend to relinquish the ability of the City to control the end product, particularly in the absence of good performance specifications, which is the case in this RFP. Design/Build projects are time driven with design and construction being essentially concurrent operations. The City has not indicated that they will retain an advocate architect to represent and protect their interests. This document as presented clearly puts the contractor in the driver's seat. Any changes or revisions required by the City post submission will be very expensive. Lily Inglis had it right when she said the City is going about the process in a backwards fashion. ;
Published: 03/13/06 01:57:30 AM
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March 10, 2006

Sault Star: Steelback is only bidder in search to name new Sault arena
Efforts to sell the naming rights to the 5000-seat Sault Ste Marie Sports and Entertainment centre aren't going very well.
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.

Published: 03/10/06 07:46:03 PM
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March 7, 2006

KTW: Mayor confident funding exists for LVEC

Kingston This Week has this story about how Mayor Rosen is hearing "encouraging rumblings" of funding from higher levels of government for his massively unpopular LVEC plans.

Published: 03/07/06 05:43:17 PM
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March 4, 2006

March 7 Council Agenda -- LVEC expenses of $719,843 to December 31 2005

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?

.

Published: 03/04/06 07:32:15 PM
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CKWS-TV: Frontenacs deal close

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.

Published: 03/04/06 11:16:15 AM
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March 3, 2006

Whig: Arena plan in peril

Here's a link to a story The Whig Standard ran on February 25th about how, despite pretenses and the recent influx of taxpayer cash, the whole LVEC plan is floundering.

Published: 03/03/06 09:58:22 AM
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Eight months and counting

Sometime this weekend we'll mark the passing of eight months since the LVEC steering committee last publicly met.

Published: 03/03/06 12:47:28 AM
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March 2, 2006

Compare Oshawa's Sept 2004 RFP to Kingston's Feb 2006 LVEC RFP

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.

Oshawa

Kingston

Published: 03/02/06 11:52:01 PM
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Ontario Strategic Infrastructure Financing Authority - $417M to 64 communities.

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.

None of it is for the LVEC. Kingston's loan application is all about the Ravensview sewage project, and the money is spread over 5-years.

Belleville's Memorial Arena renovation, on the other hand, may get an $8M loan.

Belleville Intelligencer, Friday, February 17, 2006

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.

Not to be confused with the Belleville Yardmen Arena.
Published: 03/02/06 11:16:42 PM
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Whig: City gets cash to plan 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.

Published: 03/02/06 10:50:31 PM
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KTW: Downtown parking crunch has workers scrambling
Kingston This Week published this article on Tuesday, February 21st about the tough parking situation downtown during business hours.
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.
Published: 03/02/06 10:13:00 PM
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