What Does $48 Million Get Us--A LaSalle Arena
About the LaSalle arena, the Star editorial fumed when the total package came in 44% above the arena only cost:
- "LaSalle taxpayers not only have a right to feel angry. They have a duty. Their town offered them a great deal on a car and only told them after the sale they would have to pay extra for the engine. A new deal needs to be struck and can only be brokered at the polls."
Here is something that might give Hockey League people pause. Where are the seats for the Practice Rink area? I did not see them on the PCR plan in their package! They were not referred to in their specs.
I thought I heard that there was going to be seating for 280 for the three "Practice rinks." But weren't they to replace Riverside and Adstoll? Does such a low seating number make sense if the way money is going to be made is to hold hockey tournaments, ice skating shows etc. Where are people going to sit? The PCR proposal only seems to include "in-rink and heated out-of-rink public viewing galleries for each rink" but no description of any seating.
Then this is NOT replacement but changing the whole nature of what the Community rinks were. It is nothing more than three ice-pads. It is NOT replacing Adstoll or Riverside. How could it be?
I received this information in an email from Mayoral candidate, David Wonham, who is a "hockey dad." His children played hockey and he travelled around to other cities for tournaments over the years.
- "Adstoll sits 900, and has had 1300 at one time, Riverside's seating is similar [700 seating but sometimes up to 1,000 people attend]. Is the new facility of PCR only for practice ice, and not suitable for games, championships or tournaments.... Adstoll is about 60% WMHA, and hosts Riverside, Sunparlour and the Riverside Skating club also. Riverside is similar, but also has a large hall attached."
Here's a really dumb question but I do not know the answer. What kind of seating are we getting in our magnificent new arena. Are the "regular" seats plastic, polypropylene or Foam and Steel Composite, bucket or deep, highback or normal, with or without numbers, tread or riser fixed? The City is responsible for "Tenant Finishes" so if we want something that is other than what PCR proposes, we pay extra.
Can anyone on Council tell me what we are buying? I do not think I heard one question about exactly what we are getting for $48 million of taxpayer money. I bet you, dear reader, ask more questions of a salesperson when buying a house, a car or even a plasma TV set!
When did Council first see the details of the PCR offer...back in mid-July or when it became public toward the end of September? Did Council have any meetings with Administration to go through a detailed examination of the proposal or was that it at the Council meeting?
With this rush for signing a deal, I feel the pressure to do something and that makes me very nervous. Sign on the dotted line now or else. AND THE "OR ELSE" IS THERE! Did you hear anyone tell us that the PCR offer has a 60 day time-limit? And that time started running on August 31.
SIGN, SIGN, SIGN! Nice technique eh. Sign now or our price will sky-rocket will be the threat. It is an empty one. Who else wants PCR's proposal? They have not been able to get rid of it in how many years. A few more weeks or months won't matter, especially since the new Council can terminate the deal under the Purchasing By-law!
We are being played, dear reader, like a fiddle. Reasonable and prudent stewardship of taxpayer interests is being thrown out the window in my opinion for some reason to rush to lock-up this deal!
I am still left wondering what we are getting for our $48M with the PCR proposal. Are we comparing apples to apples with the numbers or apples with who knows what. Let me point out some matters that are still confusing me. I have this sinking sensation that we think we are getting one thing but are getting something else.
Are we getting a state-of-the-art 2006-designed facility that makes us a world leader in arenas or something designed in 1999 (or perhaps earlier) that was to be built in Port Huron? Have there been new, innovative design elements introduced since 1999? Has anyone compared what this arena is like compared with other arenas in other cities? Note that in its Report, Administration has said that it has NOT completed (or has it even started?) its due diligence of the PCR proposal. That was supposed to take 90 days
The big reason for this complex and the reason why we are going to save so much money and make profits is because we are replacing "Community rinks." But are we? Are we getting what we have now or something less?
The PCR drawing shows a "Spectator facility" with a separate "Practice rinks facility" of 3 ice pads and a Community Hall.
Here is the language of the PCR covering letter to Council on August 31. Read it carefully:
"Attached, we have provide a detailed design build, lump sum proposal to construct a new 288,000 square foot facility which will incorportate one (1) spectator rink, three (3) auxiliary rinks and a community centre."
They also say:
The Centre we propose is approximately 288,000 sqft which will include a spectator arena....Also included within this structure, provisions have been made for 3 recreational ice pads and a community center."
Note that each element is broken down separately: spectator rink (arena?), rinks, community centre.
That is also how they discussed it in their July 19 letter:
"Building Overview--Arena bowl with features, 3 Recreation Rink Center, Community Center"
Within the detailed proposal is this language which no one seems to want to tell us what it means: "“PROJECT CONSTRUCTION PHASE—“All items included within this listing are for the Arena area only; all other work beyond the arena footprint is by the City”
I do not understand the phrase "provisions have been made." I do not want provisions but actual construction.
So does this mean that they are building everything, or that they are building everything but that the City pays for everything other than the arena or what? In looking through the details of the project in the PCR materials, it is not clear to me what is being covered.
Here is what one well-known Engineer person wrote to me as well.
- "Just so you know, that is an enormous statement. This would entail all site work, including access (and traffic study to accompany) provisions, parking lot, landscaping, service connections and required roadway improvements assuming this is going next to Lauzon i.e. perhaps a new signalized intersection is required. Then there is the design of all of these elements, and no doubt they will come running to the foreground with ideas for connections to bike paths, bus bay drop-offs, eco-friendly areas etc etc
The work as described can run you easily 20-30% of overall project costs, depending on what kind of quality they are looking for.
Here's a key issue that you or even City Council may not be aware of. Disposal of excavated earth and materials has become a huge headache for municipalities and developers across the province after the recent upgrade in MOE standards this past year. In Kitchener, the reconstruction of Victoria Avenue ran over budget by $4 million (!) because of "contaminated" soils (there were a number of gas stations along the route) and the earth had to be trucked to Sarnia for disposal... the WHERE of this project is important because if it lands adjacent to any current or past industrial or commercial sites, you are looking at potentially a big clean-up cost, in the order of millions for something the size of an arena complex. Now... is this a cost that will be borne by PCR/Collavino or the City? You and I know the answer.
You add to that the Opportunity Cost of swapping land and I think you are already looking at the city being on the hook for $20 million+ beyond the $49 million. This project will double in cost before it's finished with the myriad change orders, design revisions etc."
DOES THIS MEAN THAT THIS CITY-OWNED ARENA IS RESTRICTED FOR WHAT USES CAN BE MADE OF IT TO POSSIBLE TAXPAYER DISADVANTAGE.
Are we agreeing NOT to compete with the Casino complex to the possible detriment of taxpayers? Frankly, if we are to bear the risk (and isn't that the reason why Administration talks about only 48 events a year, 40 of which are Spits games) then let the Casino put up some cash if they do not want competition!
If we are building just a sports arena, then frankly why are we building it out in the east end? Why don't we build it downtown on the Western Super Anchor site that we already own ? In this way, we are revitalizing the downtown, providing a focus for an urban Village and can build smaller twin pad complexes in the East end at the Riverside site. Or we can fix up the Barn!
Here is what is really annoying too and, if I were one of the two NOTED and FILED proponents what would make me furious. What is the real difference between them and PCR such that they should be ignored.
PCR sent to the City their "unsolicited" letter on July 6 referencing a Windsor Star story of April 28....in other words, something 2 months before so they were not exactly speedy in approaching the City. They had "recent discusssions with our engineers and architects" so they did not act promptly after reading the story about the east End project. They acted when they saw a July 5 article in the Star about a July 24 Council meeting where a proposal would be presented. It was only after that article did they send in an "unsolicited letter."
Remarkably, there was no Council meeting until October, even though they were rushing for the July one. That gave PCR enough time to speak to Administration, tender their project and provide fixed details.
Did PCR get an advantage over other "unsolicited letter" writers? PCR could act as they did and no one complains but when the other two proponents act as they did, especially when one wanted to go downtown, they are ignored!
Let's go back to that LaSalle arena and the Star editorial.
- "The town of LaSalle has pulled what amounts to a bait and switch on unsuspecting taxpayers. The town grossly underestimated -- or misrepresented -- the actual costs of a new recreation complex, which are now pegged to be 44 per cent above initially announced projections.
Taxpayers were led to believe the proposed Vollmer Recreation Centre would cost $20 million, a princely sum for a town of 25,000 that caused property taxes to spike $150 annually for a $200,000 home. But just three weeks before the groundbreaking, council announced it will take another $8.8 million for the complex to be operational, accessible and furnished.
The town knew, or ought to have known, about these expenditures - - down to the dollar -- when it embarked on the project. If administrators and councillors didn't know these costs were coming, they are irresponsible planners. If they did know they were looming but persisted in perpetrating the myth of a $20-million complex, then they can charitably be described as poor communicators.