Arena talk heats up as public consultations loom

Consultant asked to address questionable track record

Spruce Grove will move ahead with plans to get public feedback on a proposed arena project.
At last night's meeting, council heard from consultants who returned after a presentation last month to update some information and answer more questions.

Councillor Dave Oldham pressed the presenters on some of their projections for local economic impact, as well as on past projects that had failed under their watch.

He says there's an element of trust that needs to be established.

"If the numbers were crystal clear, and if their history was real solid, or even if one of those was the case, I think there would be more certainty in the process," he said.

"And I'm by no means saying that a decision by myself or any of my colleagues has been made at this point. We just want to make sure that when we do go to make that decision, that we've asked all the hard questions in advance."

Global Entertainment was a company that eventually filed for bankruptcy, but not before building and managing sports and entertainment centre projects that failed to meet revenue projections, and crippled their municipalities with escalating operating costs.

Global's President Rick Kozuback then launched a new company called International Coliseums Company.

ICC is a part of the consultant team advising the city on this project, while Kozuback has been one of the advisors who's come to present to council.

Oldham says even though he asked those questions, they weren't answered.

"To be quite frank, in the meeting in January and then again tonight, I asked the question before - and wanted to give the gentlemen presenting the opportunity to let us know that there had been some challenges," he said.

"Because challenges exist in big projects like this, and there's no expectation from myself that everything goes perfectly. What I was hoping, is they would offer some of that information themselves, and they chose not to do that. And so I think it's important that someone gets the information out there."

Instead, Kozuback reiterated that the financial scenarios being presented are their best estimates, and can't be 100% guaranteed.

As for the public consultations, they'll be hosted by a third-party PR firm, who will start in the next few months and finish by the end of June.
They'll then prepare a report for council and present their findings at a meeting in August.
Oldham says on a project as polarizing and potentially costly as this, the next step is essential.

"It's easy to come to different conclusions on this, and to say yeah I think we should do it, or no I don't think we should," he said.

"I think part of our role as elected officials is to do all the research and do the work that's necessary to get the information, so that we can share that with the public and then they, with that right information, can give us their feedback, which will help help us to guide to make the best decision. I think (opinions are) mixed out there right now. I don't know if that's going to change, but that's what we want to know."

Council voted 6-1 in favour to undergo the consultations.
Searle Turton had the only vote in opposition, saying that he wanted to get more hard numbers from event management companies before taking plans to the public.

Immediate next steps before the consultation will be for the city to meet with Stony Plain and Parkland County councils, as well as Spruce Grove Saints management, in the next month.

Administration also wants to schedule a field tour for council to look at other similar facilities. During the meeting, Councillor Chantal McKenzie said she wasn't interested in taking that trip, while Turton spoke in favour of it. Staff clarified that it would be optional for councillors to take part in the tours.

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