The job of the next city council is to move forward with the Downtown Arena and Entertainment District. We must bring together those in favour of the downtown arena and those opposed, around its success.
Success can be viewed in two ways: for those who support it, we will get a modern arena in an enlivened downtown. For those who are opposed, it means they won’t have to pay the costs of a new arena.
I believe in the potential of the arena project to advance the revitalization of downtown. I also believe that taxpayers who don’t want to pay for it shouldn’t have to, particularly in light of the significant other infrastructure challenges that require investment (ex. drainage upgrades).
In order to realize this success, the next council will need to keep on top of these primary challenges:
- Ensure that the design of the building does not change in order to protect us from paying for any cost overruns.
- Ensure the development community remains committed to investing in and building the residential and commercial properties. These are required for the “Community Revitalization Levy” to return the anticipated dividends.
- Develop a stronger Community Benefits Agreement. This will allow portions of our community, who would otherwise not be able to afford to attend its events, to use the arena.
- Continue to fight for increased Provincial grants for municipalities and for fairer regional infrastructure funding.
The arena deal turned out to be a precarious funding model that divided many people in our city, and is hard to understand. I firmly believe Mayor Mandel worked hard to get the best deal he could even though the outcome leaves many of us feeling uneasy.
Negotiating with professional sports teams and their owners is not an easy task in any city. We could have looked at building the arena ourselves, or told the owner to build one with his own money, but neither would give us the potential vision of the downtown arena district. If we didn’t negotiate, we wouldn’t have been able to ensure a long-term location agreement for the Oilers in Edmonton.
The promise that the new arena will help revitalize downtown (and keep the Oilers in Edmonton), while not resulting in tax increases for the average citizen, is a promise I will work hard to keep.