The city of Edmonton continued its arena tease last week, releasing the latest renderings of the new hockey pleasure palace.
It took exactly one day before it was declared “world class” by the typically rapturous coverage of the Edmonton Journal. Of course, anything built in Edmonton these days is immediately dubbed “world class”; apparently “Canadian class” or “Alberta class” doesn’t quite cut it.
For the record (which, since I’m putting this in writing, is pretty much on the record), it does look cool, and maybe even (sigh) world class. Lots of glass, very open and futuristic, pretty much the exact opposite of the monolithic, cookie-cutter design of Northlands/Skyreach/Rexall/PayDay Loans arena. As always, I believe this is going to be a real plus for Edmonton, even though it will still be home to the forever-lousy Edmonton Oilers. (You’ve gotta love an organization that handled gentleman Tom Renney with such class, don’t you?)
Still, I still have a few nagging little questions. One-hundred million of them, to be exact.
As you might have noticed, despite the fact the project is moving ahead inexorably, that there is still a little funding gap of $100 million. Is anyone worried about this? Some city councilors have expressed concerns, but the arena’s biggest booster, Mayor Stephen Mandel, is entirely unconcerned. When asked about the missing millions, Mandel simply shrugged and said, in essence, don’t worry about it, something will happen.
When did Mandel morph into Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. (“What, Me Worry?”) Newman?
Mandel is displaying an almost European lack of concern about the $100 million gap. His attitude seems to be, let’s go ahead and build it, and let’s not worry about who’s going to pay for it. Premier Alison Redford repeated her promise last week not to put any provincial money into the building. With the federal government in full austerity mode, cutting thousands of jobs and getting by on $16 glasses of orange juice, you know there’s going to be no money forthcoming from Ottawa.
I don’t really believe that Mandel is really quite as cavalier about the money as he lets on. I suspect that there are some high level meetings going on between Edmonton, Calgary and the provincial government about some sort of legislation that will allow the big cities more control over how they spend their provincial dollars, or even giving the cities greater ability to levy taxes for projects like new arenas. If we don’t hear anything from the province in the next speech from the throne, whenever that comes, council will be under tremendous pressure to find the extra money — and there is no other place to get the money than from the Bank of the Edmonton Taxpayer.
The other big Edmonton story this past week was the announcement by Northlands that it is dumping its Capital Ex label for its exhibition in favour of something selected by the public. It seems that Capital Ex hasn’t caught on with the public the way Northlands hoped it would. This is hardly surprising. Hosting an Edmonton-based fair without the name Edmonton was a piece of marketing foolishness.
Seems to me that Northlands is putting the cart before the horse. How is anyone supposed to come up with a name for something that is so ill-defined? As historically tenuous as Klondike Days was, it at least had a theme you could grasp. Capital Ex is just an shapeless blob of clay. The main event is the exhibition, and as far as this kind of thing goes, it’s pretty good. At least, it was the last time I went to it, which was sometime in the last century. Judging from the hundreds of thousands of people who attend the ex every year, they must be doing something right. Off-site, however, what is it? As the Gertrude Stein line goes, there is no there there.
But, if they want a suggestion for a new name, how about Celebrate Edmonton? Or incorporate the ubiquitous word ‘festival’ into the mix, calling it ‘Ed Fest’, go all Twitter-hip by calling is YEGapalooza, or something similarly stupid. Or you could call it EdEx, which sounds kind of cool.
Regardless of the new name, it will still go by the name it has gone by as long as I can remember — the ex.