City Council voted in favor of the arena today by a vote of 10-3, and while there are some things still outstanding (final approval of the CRL, approval of the regional grant) the project is most likely going to move ahead. This one feels final. We could argue about the deal forever, but it’s now done. I’m not happy about all the specifics, but I’m happy that we can move past this endless debate and get on to more important things.
Now that we know there’s going to be a shiny new arena downtown, it’s time to get on board and help to ensure that the project is as successful as possible. The hard work doesn’t stop with approval of the deal…it’s really just beginning.
There’s a lot of outstanding questions that need to be explored, including:
- How does the deal impact the City of Edmonton’s debt and debt servicing levels?
- What will the marketing/branding partnership with the Oilers actually look like?
- Will the Gretzky statue get relocated?
- What happens to the Baccarat Casino?
- What is the impact of this decision on Rexall Place and Northlands? Can we sustain two large venues?
- I’d rather see local restaurants and shops in the new arena than chains. How can we ensure the arena benefits local?
- How does replacing MSI funding with additional CRL funding impact other downtown projects? How can we ensure those still move forward?
- Where is the list of property developers ready to announce projects in the downtown area? What else do we need to do to ensure that surrounding development goes ahead?
- What happens if the CRL doesn’t result in the lift we all hope for? What’s plan B, C, and D?
- If the arena is the carrot to entice speculators to do something with their empty parking lots, taxation/policy changes are the stick. How can we get the stick implemented too?
- How are Administration and Council going to learn from this to ensure future large projects follow a much smoother process, with more communication and transparency, and less ambiguity?
- How will construction of the arena impact residents and businesses downtown, especially considering it’ll take place alongside a number of other large construction projects like the LRT? How can we reduce that impact?
- What else is the City of Edmonton prepared to do to support downtown’s ongoing revitalization? How soon can we get other related projects off the ground?
And my favorite:
- When will Mayor Mandel announce he’s not running in the October election?
In his closing remarks, Councillor Henderson noted that the downtown arena “is not a magic wand”. For it to work, a lot of other things need to happen alongside and around the project. It’s a big step, but it’s just one step, in ensuring our downtown continues to grow. We need to make sure we take those other steps too.