Rumors of a new hockey arena in Edmonton have been floating around since at least November of last year. The latest news, released yesterday, is that a new “arena feasibility” committee has been struck to determine whether such a project should go ahead, and if so, where, for how much, and who should foot the bill. Jerry Bouma, president of Northlands and a member of the new committee, said:
“You have to build a world-class facility. The Oilers have already said they need a new arena.”
I’m not sure there is anyone on the committee who is against the idea of a rink. So much for the word “feasibility” – it looks like we’ve moved past that. Seems also that most of the members are convinced it should be downtown. I’m all for revitalizing our city’s downtown core, as I’ve stated before, but I am not sure if a new arena is the best idea. There are good arguments on both sides of the debate. For some good discussion, read: here, here, here, here, and here.
Either way, I don’t think taxpayers should foot the entire bill. Certainly the city should contribute something if a new arena is built, but I think it should be the Oilers that pick up the bulk of the expenses. In my opinion, there are better things that Edmonton should be investing in (these are in no particular order):
- South Edmonton Common. Talk about congestion! Seriously, we need an overpass/underpass at 23rd avenue and Gateway Blvd. Especially once the new business park just to the south of SEC is built.
- LRT. Finish it faster! Or keep it on track, and add a West Edmonton Mall to Downtown line. I think an East-West line would be great for the city, especially if it were to go to WEM.
- Potholes. There are far too many of them around the city. What happened to that research with rubber/asphalt roads? Did it work or not? Let’s get the roads fixed!
- Startups. Alberta just isn’t the best place to start a company, oil & gas related or not. Everything I have learned suggests that Ontario, B.C., and other provinces ofter much better incentives for entrepreneurs. Certainly this is a provincial issue, but there’s no reason that Edmonton can’t get the ball rolling. Let’s help individuals take advantage of the hot economy.
- Housing. Speaking of our hot economy, how about more money for housing? You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about the housing crunch in our city.
Or how about making our city cleaner? Five Canadian cities made this Forbes list, Edmonton was not one of them. And don’t forget about the ring-road project that continues. Obviously you could add new schools, hospitals, and other “usual suspects” to the list. I am tempted to mention city-wide wifi too, because I think it would have a positive impact.
The point is that a new arena benefits the Oilers first, and Edmonton second. Funding should follow that order. I’m not against a new arena (I have to admit I am a bit excited about the prospect) but I am against it being funded entirely (or even mostly) by taxpayers.