"Anybody who's going to tell you that an arena is going to bring people downtown, when it's only open 85 to 100 times a year, is barking up the wrong tree," [former London City Councillor Sandy Levin] says."It ain't gonna do it." [Reference: 'In London, a complex plan to revitalize downtown', Kingston Whig-Standard, Feb 16, 2004, p.1]
The LVEC Task Force suggested London, Ontario's John Labatt Centre as a model of what they were proposing [Task Force Report, p.3], as did Kingston Life magazine. [Winter 2003/04, pp. 44-53]
The John Labatt Centre is a thriving success, but the neighbourhood in which it is located is as derelict as ever.
This is not an argument against building an LVEC, or building one downtown.
But take the claims that it is going to "stimulate" the downtown core with a grain of salt.
After all, think about it.
When you go to a hockey game, do you eat at a fine dining restaurant, or have a burger and fries with the kids on the way? Kingston's core downtown after 6:00 only has fine dining restaurants. So far.
(In fact, given the competition for parking spaces which an LVEC in the core would result in, downtown restaurants may find their existing patrons looking for their dinners further afield.)
If you were on your way to a rock concert, would you stop off at a hardware for a can of paint, or go shopping for clothes when it was over?
And even if you did, that would simply redistribute consumer spending from the shopping centers to the downtown: the downtown's gain would be some other Kingstonians' loss. "The Stadium Gambit and Local Economic Development", Cato Institute publication
The solution to that would be to bring people from outside Kingston to spend tourist dollars at restaurants and hotels while attending concerts, conventions and hockey games. That would happen, to some extent.
But not a significant extent. Kingston's catchment area of Eastern Ontario is the least-densely populated part of Southern Ontario, in contrast, for example, to London's. And the Task Force itself admitted that the size of Kingston's airport makes it unlikely that large-scale events or conferences would find our LVEC an attractive location for them.
As prestigious (and business-friendly) an organization as the C.D. Howe Institute completed a study of the impact of large entertainment complexes on neighbourhoods, and concluded that their effect is minimal, when it is not actually negative.
Bear in mind that the Memorial Centre has been in the Division Street to Kingston Centre region for 50 years, but that stretch along Princess is among the most down-at-heel sections of the street. If the presence of the Memorial Centre did not "stimulate" that neighbourhood for over 50 years, why would an LVEC do so on the waterfront of Anglin Bay, even further from the downtown core than the Memorial Centre is from Princess Street? See some photos below.
Also, consider the observations several members of our group made of the downtown core immediately following the Tragically Hip concert on September 12. Notwithstanding the bus shuttle, downtown parking (including illegally occupied parking) was fully utilized, plus many thousands of people walked from their homes both to the event and back again. Yet the downtown restaurants and pubs, one hour after the concert was over, were virtually or completely empty, leading some to close early. If the dispersal of thousands of pedestrians and motorists right past the Ontario, Brock & Princess Street locations after one of the largest events ever held in Kingston's history, on a balmy September evening, could produce a result like that for the core pubs and restaurants, what are the prospects for the LVEC on Anglin Bay doing any better for them on a frosty Friday in February?
So the Kingston BIA is barking (very loudly) up the wrong tree.
|The Memorial Center hasn't much stimulated this location:
This derelict building, which was once a Keg restaurant, is today completely un-"stimulated" by the Memorial Center which is just 420 meters away. Other restaurants nearby aren't exactly what one would call "booming" or otherwise visibly benefiting from massive spillover effects from the Memorial Center.
In September, the Whig Standard reported a member of The Tragically Hip as saying a downtown location is vital to attracting student patrons to concerts. A student walking from the ghetto of Queen's University, starting at Division between William and Earl streets, needs to walk 1.3 km to the Memorial Center, but 1.7 km to the proposed LVEC location on Anglin Bay.
Last updated 24.10.2004