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A Wish List For Rogers Place

It's our tax dollars, why shouldn't we have a say?

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With the t's crossed and i's dotted on the guaranteed maximum price agreement (really a glorified name for a budget), construction related activities began Monday on Rogers Pace, the building that will be the Oilers new home when the 2016/17 begins. Over the last couple of years I've written more than a few posts about the arena, and for those who might not be familiar with my viewpoint I am not a fan.

If you're tired of hear me complaining about the arena fear not, I'm not going to spend time today going into why I don't like the deal, partly because this is something that is going to happen whether I like or not, and partly because I've already got it on record that I think this is a bad idea. No, instead of another post about what I don't like about the arena, what I wanted to do is put together a wish list of sorts for the new arena. After all it's our tax dollars, why shouldn't we have a say?

For the supporters of the project: You and I, we've butted heads a number of times over the last few years. One thing that sometimes got lost in the back and forth is that we both wanted what's best for Edmonton. And to that end I'm not going to stop being critical of design elements over the next 27 months. I just want to get that out there right now so that you're prepared. There are some who think "this is finished, shut up about it already," but I disagree. We're spending half a billion dollars, we might as well try to get it right. And for the record, we're already off to a bad start with the street level design along 104 Avenue which will result in a lifeless, rat hole like block when all is said and done.

For the long time season ticket holders: I don't know what to expect from the assignment of seats in Rogers Place. My gut tells me it'll be a fiasco, but the only thing I really know for sure is that season ticket holder seniority will play a role in determining who lands where. And I'd like to see that seniority identified in the building. In Camden Yards two seats in the outfield are orange, the rest of the outfield seats are green. These are the seats where Eddie Murray's 500th and Cal Ripken's 278th home runs landed. The Oilers don't have many season ticket holders who have been around since October of 1979, why not make their seats orange in a see of blue? It's a simple enough gesture for those who supported the team for more than three decades.

As a nod to Northlands Coliseum/Edmonton Coliseum/Skyreach Centre/Rexall Place: I'm sure at some point when you were watching an Oilers home game on television you noticed that the cameras are on the same side of the arena as the players benches. Edmonton is the only city in the NHL with an arena design like this, and that's almost certainly by design. But the occasional view of the players benches and/or a line changes that the television viewer gets from the "standard" setup can't be considered anything more than a slight improvement over what you get when watching games televised from Rexall Place now. And so I'd like to see that design quirk in the new arena as well.

For opening night: Recognize the WHA (you had to know that was coming). I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that opening night 2016 will include a ceremony that focuses in part on the Oilers successes during the 1980s, and in conjunction with that there will be banners in the rafters of the new building. Included among those banners should be the Oilers 1978/79 WHA Regular Season Champions banner. I wanted this raised previously because of the potential humour involved, that suggestion was ignored of course, but this seems like another wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the entire history of the Oilers. If Al Hamilton is part of the ceremony because his #3 is retired and the 78/79 banner doesn't go up I will lose my mind.

For the Edmonton taxpayers: Development, development, development. As I'm sure you know, the City has created a huge CRL area to fund the arena project. The problem is that that funding mechanism is flawed and will not work as described, and as a result all Edmonton taxpayers will take a hit. That's a known. But we're also going to have payments to make on that CRL loan so we need development within the CRL to cover those payments or we're going to be in a world of hurt. And the sooner that development happens the better. Unfortunately so far, development within the lands around the new arena site has been, shall we say, limited. I do not want to be saying "I told you so" in two years time, we need to see some firm development plans in this area to make sure that doesn't happen.

For yours truly: Craft beer on tap. I'll pay a premium for it too, now worries. Right now the world's worst draught beer costs $8.25, I'd gladly pay $10 for something that doesn't taste like it's been filtered through a shoe. Based on the bars popping up around downtown - The Underground, Beer Revolution, Craft, MKT - the demand clearly exists, so this should be a no-brainer. Don't stop there though, let's take this one step further. If the arena is supposed to showcase Edmonton to the world (that's why the City is pay $20M to advertise, right?), then we should make sure there are some Edmonton beers on tap as well. Alley Kat, Yellowhead, and Hog's Head all brew quality beers; by 2016 there will probably be even more. And while I'm thinking about it, we should go back to 20oz pints as well, since the last time I checked that's what constitutes a pint here in Canada.