SUN Hockey Pool

Arena gets an airing

CARY CASTAGNA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Some were for, some were against, and some were on the fence.

But dozens of concerned Edmontonians had a say on the city's proposed downtown sports and entertainment facility Tuesday night in the first of four public consultation meetings.

"We're not trying to build a consensus here today, we're just trying to gather people's comments, concerns and issues," said Kathy Barnhart, branch manager of neighbourhood and community development with the city's community services department.

Close to 150 people stopped in during the informal 31/2- hour meeting at Grant Mac- Ewan University, Barnhart estimated.

Only about 50 stuck around for small-group discussions held in the last half of the meeting.

Earlier in the evening, attendees were invited to visit display tables delving into the funding model, impact, and concept of a downtown arena.

No matter where they sat on the issue, many of those in attendance were "passionate," said Barnhart.

Like Lorne Anderson.

The 62-year-old lifelong Edmontonian called a new arena an "obscene waste of public money." He said residents are "being suckered into signing a blank cheque."

In contrast, Bernard, 55, is "absolutely" in favour of a new arena. "It's the future of the city," he said.

"We've got to get going on things like this. We've been sleeping for too long".

Bernard, who didn't want his last name published, said he's grateful for the commitment from Oilers owner Daryl Katz.

"It's an investment for our children, for the future of this city. I can only see positive things coming out of this," he said.

Jeff and Lacy Soparlo live in the downtown area and they're also in favour of a new arena. They said it's too big an issue to let the vocal naysayers drown them out.

"It's a big part of the city moving forward," said Jeff, 25. "I think so many opportunities have been wasted and this is an opportunity that we have to really take advantage of. If it's done right, it'll be a heckuva facility ... and benefit a lot of people."

Feedback gleaned from the public consultation process will be put into a report that is slated to go to city council in mid-January, said Barnhart.

Public meetings are scheduled for Nov. 15 and 17 at MacEwan University's Robbins Health Learning Centre, 10910 104 Ave., and Nov. 10 at the Santa Maria Goretti Community Centre, 11050 90 St.

People can also have their say online. A questionnaire will be on the city's website until Nov. 19. To fill it out, visit edmonton.ca/downtownarena.


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