Thursday, 26 June 2008

Weighing in on you-know-what (rhymes with radium)

UPDATE: Since this post more details were released today at blueandgold.ca

Ahh...the stadium. I haven't written on it much. I have been holding out for some definitive details to come before passing judgment. I am not against the Bombers or Mr. Asper or a new stadium and the possible positive impact that a new, large development could have in an area like Point Douglas. If done really well you could create something special but the way things have been going so far my faith in it being done well is faltering.

What is it ? A stadium. In our market that means it's for the Bombers and their 9 or so home games per year. You can sprinkle in the odd other paid event but when it boils down to it we're talking maybe a dozen events.

Winnipeg Stadium

What do we have now ? The Winnipeg (now CanadInns) Stadium. I'll admit it's not the prettiest dame at the dance but nobody has convinced me, and I am not aware of any new studies that were done, to show why the existing facility went from 'in need of repair and upgrades' to being ready to crumble in matter of weeks. Seriously, it appears that someone just made that up and it became absorbed as fact.

For the record, I don't mind the current stadium facility. It's utilitarian, but for the amount it gets used and the amount of time it spends sitting around in the elements it works. I don't know of anyone who avoids going to see Bomber games because they dislike the stadium that much.

Winnipeg Stadium

As someone willing to give the idea a fair shake I have been severely pissed off a couple of times already.

First was when Katz declared the
existing site as off the table ?! Huh ?! Considering that in the past month or two the place has changed locations a couple of times (and even within Point Douglas it's been shifted around). It's gone from replacing existing stands to a mega-complex replete with waterslides and dancing elephants. To jump on board with Asper and say that the current site isn't in the cards is not playing your cards very well.

The other is baiting people with the 'megaproject as Point Douglas savior' angle. From the City Centre / Concert Hall complex through to the WRHA building on Main Street, people still fall for the 'revitalize by demolishing a few blocks and plopping in a big building' myth. Revitalizing a community, on any level, takes a lot more than dumping a big building into it. We know that from past history.

As frp spinoff benefits, this is not a community facility, it's a private stadium. Asper is going to have to capture every penny spent by Bomber patrons as any cash that leaks beyond the outer kerb of the stadium parking lot is money wasted.

You can see this in the MTS Centre project. It had little impact on the surrounding neighbourhood (aside from Impark lots). Why ? Because the MTS Centre required that two bar and restaurants (three of you count Tavern United as part of the complex), a retail shop and a food court be built into the place.

Those are the types of spin-offs that need to occupy premises around the arena. Asper's pile sounds like it is growing in size to ensure that any spin-off around the playing field spins into his coffers, (which is what he should be doing).

It's a stadium. Not an office building, not a rec centre, not a not a 200 night of use a year arena or 40 night a year ballpark. We're talking a dozen nights a year. When there isn't an actual game on the site is going to be empty and for months, aside from a couple of admin staff it will be closed completely and be no different than any of the abandoned warehouses in the area.

Winnipeg Stadium

The latest item is the speed with which the mayor wants to get this done.

Collecting the land, moving Higgins, doing something with the Louise Bridge are all huge tasks and each piece needs to be worked out. The
Free Press today quotes Katz as recognizing some of this: "How much is the land going to cost? How much are we going to have to spend on streets and bridges? Do you have the consent and the support of the community?" and as for timeline "We're trying to move as fast as possible and I think realistically, it would be nice to have something done within a couple of weeks".

Wow ! That time line, coupled with the complexity of moving roads, getting the land, building bridges added to the fact that Katz as already said that the current site is out of the running, means that the due diligence is going to be pretty minimal before the city signs an MOU or whatever document Asper is going to bring forward.

This represents all that is bad about planning in Winnipeg. Things will be nowhere on the public agenda but one or two of the city's elites will decide that something is needed and it will skyrocket to the top of the charts and millions will flow. The last time it happened was a few months back with the Upper Fort Garry debate.

Upper Fort Garry Gate

The Friends of Upper Fort Garry jostled many projects out of the queue to get to the front of the line and fill their pockets.

Too bad community based groups like
The Friends of Vaughan Street Jail couldn't do that. I wonder how many times and how many ways they were told that there's just no money for heritage projects lying around.

It reminds me of a previous post I made about "City Sorting". In the audio clip Richard Florida speaks of older, smaller cities that get stuck in the 'old boys network' way of planning. He says that type of city ends up only supporting / embracing the “big stadium” projects and visions for their city versus community based projects as the latter just allows too many people into the tent to participate.

The potential for this to be a win - win project for all involved is still there but the more I see and read from the players involved the less confident I am in their abilities to deliver that sort of project.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My big concern is if you happen to be one of the businesses in that area they will try to push you out. Its already started with the city sending out income surveys to see how they an push the small business guy out. Unfortunately what they will pay the property owners Will not get the same setup elsewhere or compensate for loss of business and relocating there business and clientele