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In The Whig Standard of Wednesday, December 29th, Noreen Rasbach's editorial (not available online) counts the LVEC and Memorial Centre as the #1 Kingston news story of 2004. Her summary, however, contains several errors, and it'simportant that they not go unchallenged.
Here are the main points of concern:
She describes the LVEC as "the promise of something spectacular on a little-developed piece of waterfront. " The Anglin Bay site is not "little-developed". The actual site itself is the fully functioning marina and boatyard and associated businesses and it is surrounded by relatively recently built condo and townhouse developments, as well as the Rideaucrest Home and Rideau Towers Retirement Residence. Altogether, more than two hundred units housing many hundreds of people. The only "undeveloped" portions of the area are the Douglas Fluhrer Park and the Anglin Bay parking lot. Given that early public insistence that the park be undisturbed led the mayor to state publicly that the LVEC was never intended to be built on the park, I assume that Ms. Rasbach was not including the park as "undeveloped" land. That leaves only the Anglin Bay parking lot, but my understanding of the LVEC plans is that it will need to be used for parking.
Perhaps the Whig thinks the boatyard is in need of re-development. But that is certainly not borne out by their own articles on the yard and associated businesses, let alone letters such Joe Calnan's pointing out the economic importance of, and irreplaceable nature of, the yard for marine interests throughout the eastern Great Lakes and indeed, the U. S. Atlantic seaboard. That yard brings a lot of money into Kingston, from sources far beyond our area.
In her comments about the Memorial Centre, she correctly identifies the major issues regarding parkland, but then, inexplicably, says: "... there seems to be no politician who can sell the vision by stating the obvious--that the Memorial Centre is a decrepit eyesore whose time has long past. "But the issue isn't over demolishing the Memorial Centre arena building. Many of those concerned about selling off the 23 acre park acknowledge that the building needs either replacing or rebuilding etc. The point is that even those who agree with her characterization of the old arena are opposed to the sale of the Memorial Centre site.
She mentions the formation of a "formidable opposition"--but makes no mention of KCAL, or of any of the concerns about the site itself we have so carefully documented: only the Memorial Centre issue.
In short, Noreen Rasbach, Whig Standard editorialist, doesn't seem to quite understand the issues surrounding her choice as Kingston's #1 news story of the year, and that's a shame.
We've received permission to post the letter Councillor Rick Downes sent to the editor of the Kingston Whig Standard on December 21st which was published this week.
From: Downes, Rick
Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2004 10:13 AM
Subject: Hip ticket holders " believe in the dream"
One of the subtle yet pervasive changes that the LVEC debate demonstrates best is that the people of Kingston are no longer viewed as citizens but as customers. Now city staff have been recruited to be boosters and promoters of a dream project and the LVEC has to be sold to the people. The usual process of studying a proposal and making a decision after considering reports, studies and expert analysis has been replaced with gunning for the goal at all costs. Never have I seen a better example of realpolitick with the end justifying the means. In my view, the role of the city's Communications department is to present the public with factual information not to win them over with a marketing ploy by printing tickets to a mythical concert. Will the same effort be put into the making the public aware of the parking and traffic studies? The LVEC on the proposed site of Anglin Bay raises serious issues for citizens that live in King's Town, Williamsville and property taxpayers in the rest of the city. The citizens of Kingston have the right to have these issues seriously and objectively studied. If the LVEC is a foregone conclusion, then why are we spending $400,000. 00 of property taxpayers money for reports and studies? I regret that my colleague Councillor Smith, Chair of the LVEC Steering Committee, has given away even the appearance of objectivity by supporting this very biased marketing manoeuvre. The role of councillor is to represent the public interest and represent constituents not to represent private interest and sell a bill of goods to a customer.
Rick Downes, City Councillor
King's Town District
The City's LVEC homepage has been redesigned to showcase London's John Labatt Centre which is hosting just four hockey games,one concert (Cher is re-scheduled to April 10th), and nothing else for all of December.
Clicking deeper, we see a page titled LVEC Tour: John Labatt Centre, London, Ont which is simply brochureware courtesy of Brisbin Brook Beynon, Architects,of Toronto.
There is, of course, no mention that
But most disturbing, perhaps, is the notion that tours of facilities in other cities are being used as sales vehicles for the current plan as opposed to being an opportunity to learn from past mistakes. City communications staff is clearly and unabashedly "selling" the project despite its many flaws, the most notable being its proposed location and its funding.
Councillor Rick Downes tried to warn us about this two months ago.
The Whig Standard has already begun its series of year-in-review articles that traditionally occur at this time of year. Ann Lukits writes in the lead piece in a rare Sunday edition:
What the proposed LVEC -- built at great expense on waterfront, with additional expense of parkland and commercial facilities there, and parkland and arenas elsewhere in the city -- has to do with the perpetual complaints ofdevelopers about bureaucratic delays and fees at City Hall Ms Lukits doesn't say. Ms Lukits also doesn't say that the $28. 5-million figure she quotes was long ago admitted to be a wild guess unsupported by any serious estimating exercise. The figure being publicly bandied is now $40 million, still unsupported by any serious estimates.
Queen's University business professor Marc Busch also touched on an old familiar theme. In an economic forecast speech at the Holiday Inn, Busch warned that Kingston needs to send a different signal to the outside world if it is to succeed on the economic front.
"We need to hang out a shingle and the shingle has to be that we are credibly open for business, but as one, not at cross purposes," Busch said.
Many citizens feel the city is already well on its way to blowing a prime opportunity to alter its do-nothing image.
Last spring, a special task force appointed by Mayor Harvey Rosen unveiled plans for a $28. 5-million multi-purpose arena and entertainment centre " dubbed the Large Venue Entertainment Centre or LVEC " to replace the Memorial Centre. Rosen promised during the 2003 municipal election to build a "new Memorial Centre" before his three-year term ends in 2006.
Ms Lukits clearly hasn't been paying much attention to the LVEC issue. The project is off the ground, and the city is is prematurely sinking funds -- $235,000 in 2004 -- into it regardless of the obvious holes in the plan about site selection (also here and here), financing (also here), and consultation (also here and here).
The riverfront project has since dominated the agenda of City Hall politicians and bureaucrats. It's also been riddled with controversy, secrecy, confusion " and that old familiar feeling the project may never get off the ground.
What an outdoor concert attracting 17,000 and an indoor venue seating 6,000 have to do with each other Ms Lukits doesn't say. She also doesn't mention that despite 17,000 people, parched by sun all day, the benefit to downtown bars and restaurants after the show closed at 9:00 PM was negligible.
Ironically, a major outdoor concert proved just how much the city needs a multipurpose indoor entertainment centre. The Tragically Hip attracted close to 17,500 music-lovers to the Royal Military College grounds in early September for the band's first major hometown performance in nearly a decade. The all-day Across the Causeway show raised over $350,000 for three local charities.
Finding parking for 800 people downtown can be tough, especially in winter, no doubt about it. Even with all those parking garages so close to the Grand Theatre....
At the moment, the largest performing venue in Kingston is the 800-seat Grand Theatre. The Princess Street theatre will undergo $6. 5-million of renovations this year and has an energetic and talented new general manager, but its seating capacity and inadequate parking seriously restrict the performance possibilities.
Elsewhere in The Whig today Claude Scilley writes the Top-10 list of 2004 in sports. Number one is, you guessed it:
1. Arena envyThe Strathcona Paper Centre, built close to the 401 in Napanee, is a $10-million, twin-pad arena that seats 800 at the main pad whose original cost was supposed to be $7. 9-million (also here).
The new year began with a hand-picked blue-ribbon panel charged with exploring the city's options for something that would come to be known as LVEC, or Large Venue Entertainment Centre.
The task force morphed into a steering committee, and the city later hired a manager to shepherd the steering committee that created a stakeholder committee while it waited for the appointment of a technical committee, which is not to be confused with the committee named to look into a multipurpose facility that might be built where the Memorial Centre is located, unless, of course, the city sells the Memorial Centre property to pay for the LVEC.
Oddly, nobody seemed to have thought of creating a fund-raising committee, which means we'll be Lucky if a Venue is Ever Completed.
Meanwhile, down the road in Napanee, in the length of time it took Kingston's idea to evolve into multiple layers of discourse, the town actually built a facility that opened with, ironically, the proposed LVEC's principal tenant, the Kingston Frontenacs, in an exhibition hockey game with the Belleville Bulls (capacity crowd) and it has since hosted a National Women's Hockey League game (another capacity crowd) and has quickly become the apple of its citizens' eyes.
Robert Harlow had this letter to the editor printed by the Whig Standard this week. It's a history lesson for Don Gedge who, back in his " leap of faith"phase, lauded the City Hall building as an example. City Hall was, as Robert correctly points out, quite the white elephant in its day.
(Dec 23, 2004)
While there has been no economic impact study as yet, I believe the negative impact on the local economy must be considered. The Kingston area private sector is small, relative to other centers of similar size, and it is not healthy, as witnessed by the number of businesses that have either closed their doors or simply moved elsewhere. The LVEC will harm the private sector, as its events will compete for local household disposable income. Entertainers from out of the area will take their share of this local disposable income (their profits from their performances) back to their home markets. The LVEC management organization, whether affiliated with the Ottawa Senators or the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be compensated by Kingston taxes, and transfer the majority of these funds to their home markets.
The Kingston private sector cannot afford a net outflow of household "entertainment" dollars. More money leaving Kingston via payments to outside interests through the LVEC cannot help but damage local stores and restaurants, as families will have fewer entertainment dollars to spend elsewhere. As these local firms are weakened, so are other local firms that supply them with goods and services.
Has anyone looked at the possibility of using the existing Penrose as the LVEC center???
It qualifies--it is a venue; it is large; it is on waterfront; it has lots of parking area; it has easier access than the downtown core; it is not an environmental nightmare and wouldn't it make a wonderful entertainment center with possibilities for weddings such as the Toronto Casa Loma.
There has been a lot of negative history associated with Penrose and it would be quite fitting for this "grand" building to be turned into a venue for concerts, parties, theater etc. The possibilities are endless!!
Let's look outside "the box".
Kind regards, Tish LaVallee
In my mind, the fake ticketsare a desperate attempt to rekindle positive interest in the LVEC plan. Looking back to a year ago, the 100-day task force was meeting and the community was pretty solidly behind the idea of a replacement for the Memorial Centre. There was enthusiasm and maybe even excitement about the community doing something positive.
If you look at where things are at today, it is a completely different picture....
Derek Baldwin has a front page item in the Tuesday, December 21, 2004 edition of the Whig Standard, where he reports on the mock tickets that were distributed in November around the time Don Gedge urged people to "Take a Leap of Faith"on the Anglin Bay LVEC.
Read the whole thing.
That's a borderline ridiculous statement, and we should probaby assume he's been misquoted. People "charged with weighing the arena proposal" don't need such novelties. On the other hand, people "selling" the project, which was recently called a fiasco, certainly do. Then again, if those charged with "weighing the arena proposal" are the same people "selling" the proposal, which is probably the case for some members, then those tickets might come in handy.
City communications staff employee Brian Judge is responsible for communications of the arena steering committee.
He said the tickets were designed and printed as a novelty item to be used by officials charged with weighing the arena proposal.
It's not clear from the story whether the tickets are actually popular, or not.
"There are a few left. They haven't been flying off the shelf, nobody is actually calling up, but there was somebody who stopped by the front desk at City Hall and asked if any of those freebies were available," he (Judge) said. "I ran up and gave them some. "Then again, later in the story:
Councillor Ed Smith, chairman of the arena steering committee, said the tickets have proved highly popular among the lucky few who have managed to secure them.
"People seem to want them for a souvenir," he said last night.
Either way, it doesn't much matter. But it sounds like employees of the City who are specifically assigned to the project certainly "believe in the dream", as do those "charged with weighing the arena proposal", who seem mostly to be thinly-veiled salesmen for the project.
So there you have it: front page news in the Whig Standard, free mock tickets to a mock event being snapped up, or not. The article is, however, crystal clear on this point: everyone mentioned in this article, who here publicly ‘believe in the dream', are on the city payroll and specifically tasked to do so.
Councillor Rick Downes warned us about this two months ago.
The Multiplex Community Centre Steering Committee is looking for individuals to serve on a Community Centre Advisory Group.
The LVEC Steering Committee should take note.
David Moore and Jochebed Katan have been reporting on drilling activities in and around the Anglin Bay site since December 9th.
Derek Baldwin reports in the Tuesday, December 14, 2004 edition of The Whig Standard which looks at the new $25. 6-million, 180,000-square-foot, 4-pad Bell Sensplex in Kanata. (That's an excellent website, by the way, take time to check it out).
We've received permission to post this letter to the editor by Roger Fielding which was published in The Whig Standard last week.
A perception that Kingstonians can't work together is preventing the city from reaching its full economic potential, a room full of community leaders heard yesterday from Queen's experts.That's certainly true.
It might be premature to call the LVEC project a "fiasco", but if things continue as they are, then we should probably get used to the idea.
Last year marketing, professor Peggy Cunningham spoke of a bright future for Kingston, partially because the city had a new local council, a "move-ahead mayor" and like-minded senior governments in place.
But (professor Mark) Busch said those factors haven't made much of a difference.
"What we've seen instead is council people walking out on meetings, we've seen this fiasco over the LVEC (Large Venue Entertainment Centre) go on and on and we've seen a lot of tension among the major constituents of the city in terms of town-gown divide and the like", Busch said.
Consider the current state of affairs: The city and the LVEC Steering Committee continues to trivialize public participation in the planning and decision making process, and there has been no public consultation, planned or forthcoming, about the Anglin Bay site. Then there are the costs, in many dimensions, present and future, of forcing a publicly financed multi-million dollar investment into a sub-optimal location (also here)without studying the obvious alternatives, all propelled by hearsay of economic and community benefit. Also in play is one of the last bits of Kingston's precious public waterfront, and elimination of the last of Kingston's working waterfront. And then there's the collapse of the main source of the city's funds for the plan, which is nonetheless still being upheld by little more than pretense at this point.
Clearly there's more than the direct costs at stake here. If the Anglin Bay LVEC is perhaps not yet a fiasco, it's certainly showing all the signs of becoming so.
Joe Calnan shares with us this letter to the editor of The Whig on the theme of working waterfronts in general and specifically on the roles Anglin Bay and its drydock play in the operations of other Kingston businesses.
Robert Mackenzie (other contributions here, here, here, and here, plus another article related to the theme here) has written a letter to the Mayor, Councillors, and the members of the LVEC Steering Committee where he makes the case for a formal framework for the role of citizen participation in the LVEC process.
Robert puts forward the following statement of core values for consideration in establishing a committee-citizen relationship
Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation
- The public should have a say in decisions about actions that affect their lives.
- Public participation includes the promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision.
- The public participation process communicates the interests and meets the process needs of all participants.
- The public participation process seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected.
- The public participation process involves participants in defining how they participate.
- The public participation process provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way.
- The public participation process communicates to participants how their input affected the decision.
As sensible as this is, that would be no way to run a railroad, now would it?
A new press release on the City website says the next LVEC Steering Committee meeting has been cancelled. No reasons given.
We've received this letter from Irena Manoliu addressed to Steven Serviss of the Kingston This Week newspaper about Don Gedge's answers to questions about the LVEC submitted to the newspaper by readers.
Derek and Lesley McPhail forward this article, in. PDF format, about the stadium woes in Cleveland, Ohio, whose new Gund Arena is serving as a warning to municipal officials in New Jersey, who are considering subsidizing a new arena for the New Jersey Devils.
If you do the math, that's $US150,000 per "full- and part-time job". Read the whole thing. Things just aren't pretty in Cleveland. These quotes in particular are interesting:
Newark officials frequently say they want to duplicate Cleveland's success story by building a $310 million arena for the New Jersey Devils hockey team.
They argue with evangelic fervor that the downtown arena will spur jobs and first-class places to live, a hotel and parkland along the Passaic River. Newark, second to Cleveland in the poverty survey, will throw off its past and embrace a future filled with promise, they say. The point is to make Newark into a destination.
The city has "moved to create the biggest economic and social engine in its history," Newark Mayor Sharpe James, the arena's biggest cheerleader, said last month as the City Council agreed to spend $200 million on the project. The Devils' ownership will fund the rest.
A committee of civic leaders created by James to assess the proposal projected the arena will generate $12 million in annual taxes, $291 million in increased economic activity and 1,000 jobs when the first phase of building is complete.
For all that, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Roy Peter Jones, an original supporter of Cleveland's sports bonanza, offered this warning.
"There is no doubt that Gateway has not delivered the renaissance promised. It was probably overstated to begin with. The area in the immediate vicinity of the project has been substantially upgraded, but it certainly hasn't been the savior of downtown. "
Jones' conclusion isn't all that surprising. A series of academic studies has found sports stadiums don't deliver on their promise of jobs and economic activity. An Indiana University report, for example, concluded Cleveland's $300 million public investment in Jacobs Field and Gund Arena development generated roughly 2,000 full- and part-time jobs.
"There is no doubt that Gateway has not delivered the renaissance promised. It was probably overstated to begin with. The area in the immediate vicinity of the project has been substantially upgraded, but it certainly hasn't been the savior of downtown. "About the game-day impact:
A block from the arena, only a handful of the crowd streaming toward parking lots stopped two blocks from the East 4th Street entrances at four mostly empty sports bars, doors open wide and jukeboxes blaring.... which is exactly what we observed when The Hip played across the Causeway in September.
Within a half hour after the game ended, it was as though it never happened. The streets of Gateway were mostly empty.
Joe Calnan has prepared for us a nice list of Working Waterfront sites on the web, the list of which we're now hosting here and we'll continue to develop over time. The gyst is working waterfronts are very valuable, subject to conservation efforts elsewhere, and posess value beyond what first meets the eye.
Mr Calnan says:
My company, Calnan Boatbuilding and Joinery, just completed a project on the 96-foot,3-masted schooner CHALLENGE, for which the infrastructure of Anglin Bay was absolutely essential. This project required the use of the drydock, the crane, the 600 volt electrical supply, and the dockside industrial workspace which still exists at this site. This project came to Kingston because facilities of this type no longer exist elsewhere on Lake Ontario. My project was only one among many that were underway on Anglin Bay at the time, all making similar use of the resources of the Working Waterfront, and employing dozens of workers. If the boatyard is razed and landfilled to build the LVEC, as is currently proposed, It will no longer be possible to do major work on large vessels in Kingston. Dozens of tradesmen will be without an essential place to perform their work, and the 328 - year tradition of building and repairing boats on Anglin Bay will end.
A new Public Notice dated December 3rd appears on the City Website.
The City of Kingston has initiated an Environmental Assessment (EA) Study for the proposed extension of Wellington Street from Bay Street north to the new John Counter Boulevard. The proposed Wellington Street / Mid Block Extension would require the construction of a new roadway through an area between Division Street and the Inner Harbour. The completed Wellington Street Extension would form an important north/south link between the Downtown, Division Street and Highway 401.
Steven Serviss reports in the Friday, December 3rd edition of Kingston This Week on some of the mail they've received about the LVEC project, and project manager Don Gedge's answers.
... though, unfortunately, none of them appear to be directly online. Thanks to Julian Brown (also the author of this article) for spotting and summarizing them for us here.
John Barber (page A15), talking about the shadowy deals on the Toronto waterfront, refers to the "outstanding architectural question of how to fit windowless barn-like soundstages onto a prime site set aside for spectacular public purposes. " The argument applies almost as well to an arena as it does to a soundstage. The rest of the article is about secret real estate deals, that seems familiar.
The second editorial (page A22) is about the Skydome sale for $25 million. Given the likely cost of serviced land in that area of downtown Toronto, the value of the building seems to have declined to about zero. These sports/entertainment facilities seem to progress from pride-inducing luxuries to valueless wrecks faster than any other form of real-estate.
In the Review section (page R4) the Air Canada Centre is reported to be nominated as a highly regarded concert centre. One wonders what architectural and engineering features are responsible for its success, and whether they can be reproduced in a smaller building. Is it a matter of shape, volume, surface finish on the walls and ceiling, or simply very good electronics and loudspeaker systems? Whatever it is, can it be retro-fitted to an existing building?
Norman De Bono, Business Reporter for The London Free Press, in the November 27th edition, reports on the currently bandied tax hike number, 8%, for the city of London in 2005.
About a third way down are these lines:
The John Labatt Centre event calendar is here. It hosted 14 events in November, and is planning 7 events in December and 14 events in January. Doing the math, in summary, the JLC debt service alone for these three months is over $31,000 per event.
The city has a budget of more than $700-million and a debt load of more than $300-million. Servicing the debt on the John Labatt Centre alone will cost $4. 5 million next year.
Steven Serviss reports in the Tuesday, November 30 2004 edition of Kingston This Week on the same story published in The Whig exactly a week earlier. There are a few notable differences in the stories, just as you might expect.
Here's a quote attributed to Russell Steacy of RJS Consulting:
"The contractors have determined that the three pads could be in operation by September, October next year," says Steacy.
"What this will do is allow the City of Kingston to close down two ice pads immediately and save some money to redirect to the large venue project. "
This is so interesting, in many dimensions.