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Amarjeet Sohi Ben Henderson Don Iveson Municipal Politics Smart Growth

building edmonton’s downtown arena.

With Edmonton’s mainstream media bubbling in praise of the report supporting the construction a new arena in downtown Edmonton, I can’t help but be put a back at the lack of objectivity in the reporting. Judging by the amount of support in today’s papers, you’d think that Colin Powell had just made an irrefutable case to the United Nations Security Council

Here’s a quick look at a couple of things that immediately caught my suspicion…

1) The committee that wrote the report was handpicked by someone who had already voiced support for the downtown arenaMayor Stephen Mandel. Self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone?

2) The comparisons are reaching. Of course I want Edmonton’s downtown to become vibrant, but building a giant hockey rink won’t automatically put Edmonton in a position to rival downtown Montreal or New York (like some of the article’s have alluded). I’m still not convinced that spending upwards of $450 million (plus land costs) on an arena that will draw the suburbs downtown for a couple hours 2-3 nights a week is what will revitalize downtown. As someone who has lived in the Whyte Avenue area for 4 years, I can tell you that bringing loads of hockey hooligans into an area doesn’t revitalize much for the people who are actually living in the neighbourhood.

3) No one seems to be talking about… “Northlands, the non-profit group that runs Rexall Place, released a study in February that said the arena could be rebuilt for $250 million. That report has been shelved while the mayor’s committee does its work.” (The Battle of Alberta had a good post on this back in October 2007).

4) I think that Journal City Hall columnist Scott McKeen might be getting a little too comfy in his City Hall Office as he spent the majority of his pro-arena article taking aim at those who would rather the public funds be spent on other things, like say, fighting homelessness or fixing infrastructure. McKeen also tried to solidify his case by arguing that the amount of reporters who showed up at yesterday’s media conference means Edmontonians should be convinced of the recommendations. Sorry, Scott, but still I remain skeptical.

Through all the frenzy and praise, I’m glad to see that there is still some sensibility on City Council as Councillors Don Iveson, Amarjeet Sohi, Ben Henderson, and Tony Caterina have all publicly stated their skepticism of the report.

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