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Sunday, March 27, 2011

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK LAFORGE: PART I

The Reason for the Interview...


Concept for District Area  Surrounding the Arena
I wanted to help support the proposed arena project in Edmonton as I am a true believer it will help re-vitalize this city. I also am at Rexall Place at lest 45 nights a year and I see that this building is past it's prime. Being that I spend a lot of time at the rink, I would like to enjoy that time a little more than I do currently when walking the concourses of Rexall.


As this was a conversational interview, I had to paraphrase some content to have it make sense for the reader. I have done my best to stay true to the answers that were provided by Mr. Laforge.


It`s also quite a long interview and therefore I am going to write it in two parts. Enjoy!


The Interview...


realoilfan: Will tickets in the new arena be comparable, to tickets that seat holders have now? from a price and location perspective?


Laforge: The current building holds 16,000 seats not including Suites. The new building will have 17,500 not including Suites. It will have the same number of suites at 68.  (goes to white board and draws a picture of the the bowls that will be built)  The lower bowl (in Rexall) currently goes to 18 rows and we're going to go to 30. The slope will be greater than it is at Rexnall Place so on the 3rd deck you will be closer to the ice than you are now. when it comes time to choose your seats it will be based on seniority. If you choose not to change anything you will be assigned a seat that is relatively the same as the one you have now. But, there will be an on-line program that will allow you to choose any seat in the building, that will show it's price point, sight lines etc. So because there will be a lot more choices for seats, you will be able to easily go up or down rows to see how that may effect your price. once you have selected your seats, it will give you so many hours or days to finalize the seat.


realoilfan: I have been to five NHL rinks including Rexall but, the most updated was the TD Bank North Garden in Boston. My Wife and i were blown away by the concourse and it's services. There was a full Irish Pub with windows overlooking the harbor! In Rexall, you need to have club seats to access the bar area. Will the new building have some good services like in Boston?


Laforge: There will be a club section you can join if you wish. Most people will enter on the concourse level and will be able to get everything they need right there. We are planning lots of places for you to have a good time. In the corners, at the attack end of the arena, there will be two clubs that will have barstools that you will be able to watch the game from. You will be able to buy power seats in there, or pay a cover to get in. And then if you go up on the next level, we're planning a bar on that end (notes the opposite end of arena on white board) 


realoilfan: When I went to Calgary for the first time, how Canadian did I feel being able to get a Timmy's double double and watch an NHL game. Will there be franchised type concessions?


Laforge: Yep, I think there will be restaurants that look like the Keg, to Tim's, everything from soup to nuts.


realoilfan: I wanted to ask you about parking. As it is now, i can't buy a parking pass as a one of. I actually park at the Brick Sports Central by Axe Music on Wayne Gretzky Drive, as the money goes to help the charity instead of into a local business or resident's pocket. Will people be able to buy a pass at the new building?


Laforge: I'll say this about parking...we're not planning much parking. We've done some research and it all says, don't get into the parking business, leave it to the existing operators. We'll make arrangements for your parking with a conceirge line via phone or on-line, where you call / log in and tell you want to park and we'll arrange a spot. We'll do this by contracting parking lots that already operate. Like the Bay's lot, the Oxford Towers, Manual Life, and others that are usually empty at night anyway. This will give us lots of options for above ground, heated underground, outdoor, etc..  We have our noses into a lot of this already. We will also have the ability to let you know closer to game time, where to access your stall from. If there's a traffic accident that is tying up traffic, we will be able to send instructions to your e-mail, smart phone, text so that you know the best way to get to your spot.


realoilfan: So parking will not be a part of the building itself?


Laforge: I don't think so, no. Right now Northlands has about 4500 spots. By using existing lots around downtown, we have access to over 15,000. By contracting these spots and becoming business partners with the operators, they get more business and we will get some too. We will be heavily encouraging people to use the LRT as well.


realoilfan: I fear for the Brick Sports Central as the revenue they generate from games and events is relied on heavily to operate their charity. Will you guys make them a part of it?


Laforge: We know them well and support them in a huge way now. we will do everything we can to get them back on their feet through the EOCF (Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation) if need be. We will also have lots of space available near the new district if they want to re-locate.


realoilfan: In Boston at the Garden, they have a train station that is not just fro events & games, it's another stop along the route of the train and is accessible at all times. But, it is also attached to the Garden so that people can get to the arena easily. Will this project have something similar?


Laforge: The Station is already being built. That's why 105th ave is blocked off now. It'll be called MacEwan Station as Grant MacEwan University is two blocks away.


realoilfan: I didn`t know 105th was blocked off as I try to avoid downtown. And that`s part of the problem, I come from the GTA and Vancouver, and in those cities you go downtown for services, arts, entertainment and fun. But ever since I moved here, I have wanted to leave as there is not a really vibrant downtown.


At this point Mr. Laforge gets up and leaves the room to go get his book of concept art, street maps, and planning drawings for the Arena District. He shows me how it is all laid out based on streets and avenues. Where Oilers way will be, where the service corridor is for trucks, where the LRT station will be. He also shows me which buildings will be the Hotels, Condos, office Towers and possible Student housing. Some of these buildings (Hotels & Condos) are attached to the Arena itself.


realoilfan: So, I'm curious how you guys have all this laid out already and yet you don't have the deal in place to fund and build it.


Laforge: This is easy to do, it's just computer graphics. You have to do it for the proposal.


realoilfan: Ok, so what happens now if the deal gets done. City Council approves it, you get the financing figured out, but Northlands isn't involved. But, the building completion runs past the time that the current lease runs out on Rexall. Now you've got a season upcoming and no lease. Is there a plan?


Laforge: City hall runs Northlands. We've been negotiating with the Mayor and City Administration. There won't be an issue.


realoilfan: What happens if the City turns down the project? If they finally decide that they are not interested in going forward with it. Will rexall Place then get a face lift?


Laforge:  We won't play in an improved Rexall Place Darryl (Katz) has said. And, there are risks to this game, and one of the risks are that the Oilers would leave town.


realoilfan: Could you see a scenario where they would move out of the city to another county and pay the taxes there, to keep the team here?


Laforge: We haven't calculated any other scenario, other than this plan. The reason for that is, if you start calculating what ifs, then you get into the what if nightmare. What we`ve said is, this is the right deal for Edmonton. It`s the only deal for Edmonton. And Darryl (Katz) is going to put in one hundred million dollars into the development around it, you can`t do better than that. 


realoilfan: What people tend to forget is that Darryl Katz has already put two hundred into this team. So that would be four hundred total.


Laforge: Yeah, they do. Other cities that don`t have teams, like Quebec City, are building Arenas hoping someone will go.




TO BE CONTINUED.... 

5 comments:

  1. Just terrible fawning stuff. People like you will be why they city is going to get hammered into paying for a new arena.

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  2. This isn't sounding promising. The average size of the top 10 arenas in terms of sizes is approximately 19709. The average of the next 10 arenas is over 18,000. This city isovercome more than capable of filling an arena that is at least 18,500 and more along the lines of 19,500-20,000. Building an arena that is so small does not make sense, especially with the amount of intertia that we had to to get to the point that we are at now.

    To say that sight lines will be impaired as we get larger does not stand up to reason either. Having been at Cancucks games in Vancouver, the sight lines are quite good for an arena that holds 18, 630. Again, I think the sweet spot for our city is somewhere between 18,500-20,000 seats.

    Realoilfan's comments on Boston's arena are important. This arena should not only bring in traffic to the inside, but it should be able to populate integrated restaurants (THE KEG, not something that resembles the Keg) and bars that will bring traffic to downtown. Imagine, 19,000 people inside the arena to watch the game, while there are maybe another 500-1500 in restaurants and bars enjoying the game in the ambiance of other fans, so close to the action.

    For the love of our team, its fans, and our city, please don't screw this up.

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  3. @ EDM MESSIAH...

    the new building will have 17,500 seats before the suites are accounted and before the restaurants and bars are added in too. right now rexall has 16,000 without suites or standing room factored. so we will get 1,500 more seats, the over-all number will be in the low 19,000's for overall capacity. that's a big upgrade from the 16,839 we currently have. not to mention, the Oilers have said that the seats will be roomier, have cup holders and more leg room. personally i will give up 1000 seats to get more leg room and a cup holder!

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  4. @Duncan Kinney...

    the city should help pay for the arena. it's going to reap all the tax dollars. the city will also reap all the fringe benefits from the money being spent in this town by visitors. and...if you haven't been listening, it's not just about hockey! the city will benefit from about 320 other nights worth of events in the building as hockey only takes up 45. if you want your city to be a more vibrant, fun, and enjoyable place to live...pitch in your $12.00 / year that your taxes would increase, instead of just your negative 2 cents.

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