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It looks like Windsor will build a four-pad arena, featuring a 7,200-seat rink, somewhere on 30 acres in the east side of the city for an estimated $55-million plus land costs. The link is here and a more readable printer-friendly version is here.
Here'a a quote attributed to Winsor Spitfires spokesman Warren Rychel. Imagine, just for a moment, Kingston's LVEC promoters showing concern for paying customers.
Rychel said they have no preference for a site, as long as it's easily accessible for fans. He said the 7,200 seats won't be hard to fill. "It's not just about the Windsor Spitfires. It's about getting events here -- figure skating, lacrosse, concerts."Also this:
But Wilson said word is spreading among developers in town. If the new four-pad multiplex is built in the east end, there would be eight ice pads within a short distance of each other, if the rinks in the Town of Tecumseh are counted. The cluster of rinks would make the city a sports-entertainment destination for hockey tournaments and other ice sports.Kingston's Memorial Cup hopes for 2011 have just about completely evaporated. It was that easy. And Skate Canada, with no practice facilities nearby? Forget about it.
The new arena could be paid off by 2010, without borrowing a penny, according to city treasurer Onorio Colucci. Money will be freed in 2008 after many of the city's larger capital projects are paid off through a pay-as-you-go plan that was implemented in 2002. In 2008, $15 million will be available. In 2009, $23.5 million will become available and in 2010, $36.4 million will be free to use for a new arena. A one per cent capital levy that was tacked onto tax bills back in 2002, to pay for large projects, was to have ended in 2009, but could continue in 2010 to help pay for the arena, according to Colucci.Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?
As KEDCO fiddles with Hockeyville initiatives, and its employees peddle the LVEC to Kingstonians and its luxury suites to the wealthy among us, read the CIBC report about how Kingston stacks up on nine different economic indicators.
Today The Whig published this story about the city's ongoing project funding woes. The Grand Theatre renovation, budgeted in 2004 at $6.5 million, and upped to $9.8 million as recently as last summer, is now expected to cost a minimum of 11.9 million or $14.42 million, depending on which newspaper you're reading. Were that not enough, it looks like the city won't be getting provincial and federal money for the $17 million it was counting on to renew John Counter Boulevard (see also here).
The money problems come at a time when the city is still struggling to find grant programs to provide at least $8 million to build a downtown entertainment centre that will cost more than $37 million.Kingston This Week has more on the budget problems with renovations at The Grand Theatre.
Here's what Gordon Pitts of The Globe and Mail has to say about Kingston today:
Kingston looks like a winner: a historic town with a renowned university, famed military college, attractive lakeside setting, and 115,000 people situated along the major highway between Toronto and Montreal. Alas, look more closely -- the city is way down in the rankings in the CIBC economic activity index. It is attracting new people but they are often senior citizens who like rustic limestone cottages, but are less interested in industries and events that make the economy grow. Trouble is, a vibrant economy needs lots of new people in the 19 to 65 age group. Projects that appeal to young families, such as an arena and entertainment complex proposed for the downtown, get a ho-hum response or downright resistance, from greying residents. Traditional manufacturing has been under pressure from the high Canadian dollar, and new companies are not sprouting in large numbers to take up the slack. Queen's University graduates do create startups, but they tend to do it elsewhere, business professor Ken Wong says. The Conference Board of Canada expects that manufacturing and construction will bounce back over the next two years, but what about the long term? Kingston has to shed its fusty institutional and anti-development bias and build a private-public consensus around projects that make it a more balanced economy.Ken Wong, a decorated professor of marketing at Queen's, was a member of the Mayor's LVEC Task Force. Was he appointed to the Task Force because of his expertise on the role of hockey arenas in productive Canadian societies, or was it to provide a framework for selling the LVEC? Since the Task Force report, the marketing of LVEC to Kingstonians has been botched. This is surely not what The Mayor had in mind when he brought Professor Wong aboard.
Regardless, the LVEC project, as currently conceived, certainly never had the merits to sell itself, and has suffered from rank-amateur process and communication problems since day one. In the end we have no doubt that the blame for the LVEC fiasco will stick where it rightfully should. Until then, if anyone has objective data about the role of hockey arenas in the sustainable growth and productivity of Canadian cities (as opposed to cooked-up data by project promoters) we'd love to see it.
Here's a transcript of yesterday's CKWS story about the deteriorating parking situation in downtown Kingston.
April 5th, two weeks ago, was the closing date for the Large Venue Entertainment Centre Operator Request for Proposal.
Time may show that the LVEC's "silent majority" is a pretentiously manufactured spin by KEDCO employees, who may soon be called to account for the hours and resources spent selling the LVEC to Kingstonians instead of selling Kingston to the rest of the world. It doesn't bode well for KEDCO that such inwardly-directed LVEC-selling has been happening for some time and that The Whig apparently doesn't know about it, or pretending it doesn't exist and thereby actively ignoring it's inefficacy.
We estimate that the BIA has about one month to ceremoniously put this $5M worth of surety on the table. That could cascade the $8M required from senior governments.
It's hard to imagine funding from senior levels of government materializing if the BIA doesn't step-up.
Nonetheless, see how loosely the Business Plan is worded:
This is a fishy deal because guess who holds the bag in the interim? Taxpayers! The BIA, considering the extent to which they've driven (hijacked?) the project, should have their chips all-in at the outset.
But the BIA isn't all-in, far from it. If that's not testament to the degree the BIA seems to own this Council, then what is?
Would somebody please explain how this arena deal, as structured, in any way protects the interests of Kingston's taxpayers? Remember, here the developer is also the regulator, and no public consultation, no further public review of any sort, is planned.
Wait, there's more: The Business Plan, the documents that Kingstonians and senior government officials have at hand to evaluate the poject, is a year out of date and the LVEC Business Plan landing page on the City website still links extensively to plans and concept diagrams showing Anglin Bay, and links to Anglin-Bay-centric blurbs of all sorts. In other words, since November 1st 2005, the LVEC Steering Committee, prominently featuring Mayor Rosen, Councillor Ed Smith, and Mr Don Gedge, haven't bothered to anotate, nevermind revise, crucial public documents about the project.
So this much is certain: officials of the McGuinty and Harper governments currently have Internet access to year-old documents that don't even reflect the current proposal.
Given all this, it must be embarassing trying to pull together $13 Million in total funding before Council votes in May.
This Saturday's Whig has a this front page story about parking woes downtown. The 76-space parking lot at the corner of Queen and Bagot is closing, and this is putting noticeable pressure on the downtown's parking supply.
This parking lot is the Kincore parking lot which, according to the Kincore website, is full with a waiting list. According to this Whig article, more than 500 parking spaces are dissapearing from downtown this year to make way for development.
The city is quoted as saying that people are just going to have get used to using transit rather than bringing cars downtown. They say the lack of parking is a sign of a thriving downtown, and that the downtown is vital enough to sustain scarcer and more expensive parking.
Doesn't this seem to contradict the claim that the city needs the LVEC downtown in order to keep it vital?
The Whig Standard reported back in July 2005 -- a front-page story that is no longer online but we covered here and reproduce from ProQuest here -- that the city was ready back then to sell luxury suites.
Today, more than nine months later, suite sales are in full sell-mode.
In Sault Ste Marie the Luxury Suites required a $2,000 deposit, which is double what's required here.
This project, in the absence of communications with ratepayers, now seems to be looking for any sign of positive news to convey. Expect to see gloating over the selling of suites which, in reality, is the collection of deposits at rock-bottom prices.
Coming next week on TV-COGECO, Mayor Rosen and Councillor Ed Smith fielding softballs from Ms Lynn Rees Lambert.
Perhaps Ms Lambert will inquire what the LVEC Steering Committee has been doing behind closed doors for the past nine months. She could ask when we can expect to see a straight LVEC Traffic and Parking Report, one that mentions the Lasalle Causeway more than zero times. Perhaps she might inquire whether the Mayor and Mr Smith have any qualms about spending our tax dollars on current digging exercises in the absence of any such analysis, and about the notable absence of genuine public consultation surrounding this massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to downtown landowners and a few BIA members. Ms Lambert could also ask why future perpetual six-figure annual subsidies to the Memorial Center as a result of the LVEC don't factor in the LVEC business plan which, incidentally, hasn't been revised since its release over a year ago to reflect the new realities of the currently proposed LVEC. Was the LVEC business plan an exercise in busy-work, a ceremonial going-through-the-motions? If not then where are its long overdue revisions?
A sharp-eyed reader reports that the City seems to have revised the Design/Build RFP that's posted online. If so, no public notification of this was emitted.
In the Urban Design Guidelines, Page 28, they have added a new Appendix J which is a draft of Urban Design Guidelines prepared by an adjacent landowner. I wonder who that might be!Let's find out. Here's the new reference:
The city website says we can download the complete text of the RFP, and here's Appendix J:
Gotta love those critical missing attachments.
Ok, moving on,
They have now introduced "Soft Costs" into the "Hard Costs" component of the performance specifications. The terms "soft" and "hard" were used in the business plan. Staging, curtaining, catwalk and flygrid are now included in the performance specifications for pricing. They have also added a line item at the end of the performance specifications which requires the contractor to carry a 5% construction contingency cost. All this has been added while the capital cost remains fixed at $29 million. The pricing proposal form has not been changed to indicate that these "soft" costs would be over and above the capital costs. I can only assume that the City is trying to squeeze more items into the capital cost. If that is the intent, then something else has to give. The building may not be so significant after all with a lesser budget.
They have now included the requirement for two dessicant dehumidification units. The performance specifications are so lacking that they have not even specified the climate requirements within the building.
History teaches us that, in the end, stadium budgets and subsequent construction cost estimates don't mean much. It'll cost what it will cost. The prime objective now, we must remember, is to pass all this through this supine downtown uber alles Council which, from the very start, has been an 8-5 sieve. The veracity of the assumptions, documentation, or reports, and even the complete absence thereof, hasn't been a problem for the majority of this Council so far.
Pass this next vote and thereafter the purse is bottomless, and current pretenses of oversight vanish, and everybody knows it.
Compare the communications of the Sault Ste. Marie Sports and Entertainment Centre steering committee to that of The City of Kingston and, most egregiously, that of the Kingston LVEC steering committee.
For reference, Sault Ste. Marie's development schedule is about a full year ahead of Kingston's.
We observe several notable differences in quality:
Here's a story by a media-savvy newspaper in Ashville NC. The Citizen Times documents the city's efforts to modernize or replace the 7,654-seat Asheville Civic Center. The story even includes (brace yourself) outbound hyperlinks!. Imagine, for a moment, a Whig Standard web story, or a CKWS-TV web transcript, with a working hyperlink within it. We are in Spring 2006, and so far it hasn't happened once.
Back in North Carolina, the story bemoans the lack of concrete action on replacing their 32-year old facility.
10 years and $200,000 later, council has not decided on action plan for aging building.
Instead we get a rushed take-it-or-leave-it proposal, one with no "Plan B" other than what's cobbled together at the last moment upon the imminent failure of previous plans. Overall the project has little support outside downtown and now requires crisis-driven brinksmanship negotiations with funders, designers, and builders to proceed. No input from ratepayers is planned.
So in Asheville they are, in fact, doing things right: Instead of waiting 50-years to replace their building, like we've done in Kingston, they started the process when the building was between 20 and 25 years old. In 10-years, they've spent a fraction of what Kingston wasted in a much shorter time, and they have a solid basis for building a general concensus to proceed.
Mayor Rosen is correct: " good process guarantees one thing, good process". Good process is all about averting mistakes early and inexpensively, before they blossom into very costly mistakes later on. It's possible that soon Kingston will have blown a million dollars actually drilling and digging on two inapropriate sites, all without any sign of a credible traffic report (past of present), no site-selection paper trail, very little information disclosure, and no genuine public consultation outside the immediate downtown area. Picture Mayor Rosen, looking bewildered, blaming "political reasons" for the lack of buy-in from stakeholders, citizens, and upper-levels of government. Try mismanagement.
Here is how both properties compare at "1:5000" scale according to KMaps.
Note the size of the current Memorial Centre in relation to the North Block property. On the minuscule North East corner of the North Block, the City proposes to build a facility that's expandable, so they say, to 6,000 seats which is about double the capacity of the current Memorial Centre.
Here's what the Kingston Taxpayer's Association has to say about how Council voted on September 20th 2005, on a motion to consider the Memorial Centre site upon the total collapse of the LVEC's originally proposed location, on Anglin Bay.
|Meeting date: September 20, 2005|
|Motion: Upon rejection of the Anglin Bay site, to include the Memorial Centre as an alternative site|
|Council's vote Lost (4:9)|
If anyone has a better example of potential dereliction of duity and failure to communicate, we'd like to see it.
The city is publicly offering licences for luxury boxes at the proposed LVEC.
Here's the press release.
Here's a link to the DEPOSIT AGREEMENT, a link that doesn't work on the City Website in the Firefox browser.
Reading the press release, the project is clearly in sell-mode. It starts with a re-branding to "The Kingston Sports and Entertainment Centre", or KSEC.
The Kingston Sports and Entertainment Centre, formerly referred to as the LVEC, will be a modern, state-of-the-art facility located downtown within a central business district block bounded by Ontario Street, Barrack Street, King Street and Place D'Armes.The term "Memorial Cup" appears twice in the press release.
The private suites will range in size from 8 to 12 seats. The annual licensing fee will also vary between $12,000 to $18,000 depending on the size and location of the suite.
A helpful reader forwards this story about parking near the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena during events scheduled on work days, such as Disney on Ice. Be sure to view the video, especially if you work for Harvey Rosen.