The Need For A New Arena

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman went through Alberta last week, and along the way he made sure to suggest that the only way the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames could have any long-term security was if the cities coughed up money to help them build new arenas.

In Edmonton, Bettman sold not just franchise stability, but also appealed to the idea of revitalizing the city:

“This is the second-oldest building in the league, this is the smallest market in the league and if this team is going to have success long-term, they need a new arena, there’s no question about it. With the (current) lease expiring in 2014, people need to focus on the new arena. Having a new arena downtown in any city can be used as a opportunity to revitalize either a community or a region or all of downtown by having 200 nights or more (events) that bring people to an area, not just the arena, but an entertainment district.”

Bettman also said that the NHL would be happy to provide information about how a new arena can revitalize a certain area of a city.

In Calgary, Bettman hit upon similar notes and further appealed to the vanity of residents by talking about “world class” cities:

“Arenas have a certain shelf life. A new facility can be used to rejuvenate a certain area of the city that may not attract people on a regular basis. Cities that aspire to maintain their status as world class generally choose to invest in them because they are important to their citizens and important to a way of life… There’s an economic reality to what new arenas provide. If the Flames are going to continue to be successful and stable, ultimately they are going to need a new arena.”

The nice thing about the trip for Bettman was that he barely even needed to alter his tone as he moved from city to city. The speech was essentially the same; long-term stability, revitalize the city, etc. It’s the same speech he’s been giving for years, the same speech that people in Glendale probably wish they’d never listened to.

The fact is that arenas are not a cure-all, as the current situation in Phoenix shows all too well. They can help the economic bottom line of ownership, but in and of itself that’s not a reason for the public to build them.

Comments (5)

  1. Bettman never ceases to make me shake my head….How is he under the impression that the oilers have the smallest market? I have no issues with new arenas being built(although the saddledome is very well know). But if Bettman is going to suggest to teams how to be more economical, his tour should start in the south, and end in the south.

  2. Bettman has always been a joke…

  3. Can we really use Glendale as a comparable? They built that arena in the middle of nowhere. A city with a new arena will benefit. A desert with a new arena will still be a desert.

  4. There are a lot more hockey fans in Edmonton than in the states of Florida, Georgia & North Carolina put together. What Bettman doesn’t know about hockey would fill many librarys. Edmonton has basically sold out every game since they’ve been in the league and we haven’t had a good team for almost 20 years. I think that if the NHL needs a new arena in Edmonton maybe all the owners should get together & build one. I see no reason for taxpayers to pay for an arena to be owned by a billionaire that is played in by millionaires.

  5. Well, at least he changed his spiel slightly to show he’d been told by his handlers what the high points of the debate are. In Edmonton, you can’t mention the arena without it’s proponents going off on a tangent about the revitalization of downtown. Which is not an argument without merit, it’s just not a given that new arenas fix crappy downtown cores, it has to actually be done well. And as soon as you utter the phrase “world class city,” Calgarians immediately get really defensive. Of course, there is a very real definition for the term “world class city,” and “arena less than 30 years old” is not one of the criteria. “Opera house” is, though. Maybe Calgary should be spending public money there instead.

    But I don’t know how you guys can argue his “smallest market” comment. He didn’t say Edmonton had fewer hockey fans than any other city. And if Edmonton isn’t the league’s smallest market, I don’t know what is. What city with an NHL team has a smaller metropolitan population than Edmonton?

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