Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Instant Engagement on Crystal Centre Expansion

Expanding the Crystal Centre was on the CDC agenda this week. I'm not on the committee but the issue is important, and the money involved is huge so I wanted to be there to be a part of the discussion. I also wanted to solicit some feed back and see what residents thought about the idea and the cost so I made a simple posting to my Facebook status "Crystal Centre expansion: $38M to add 2100 seats, 24 luxury suites & more. I think:"nice to have but tough to do." Your thoughts?" ...the response was great!

The posting touched off a discussion that generated 55 comments with friends stating their point of view, asking questions and debating amongst themselves. A lot of this conversation was happening while I was in the committee meeting, and at the same time council members were debating.

This got me thinking of the cliche of "The Coffee Shop" as the place that discussion and debate on local issues happens. It makes me wonder if, maybe, our generation has a new coffee shop.

I followed up the discussion by posting a full length note (posted below) with my position and some of the details from the staff report so people could see for themselves what council members were basing the newspaper quotes on.

The lesson? Citizens, even younger ones, do care about their communities and are willing to engage... you just have to be smart enough to know how to find your way to the coffee shop.

My Facebook Note:

Hi all, thanks again for the great conversation - I appreciate your input!

All in all I don't think we should expand the Crystal Centre to try to compete for the big name concerts that require lots of seats. It's just too expensive and there are other things at play like the fact that the facility in Dawson is part of a group that can book multiple show dates - even if we had as many seats there's no saying we could over come that additional pull they have.

I think we do need to spend some time developing a new strategy on how we can ensure the facility continues to be a vibrant asset for our community. Maybe we have to rethink what we want that building to be used for. Maybe there are less expensive renovations that cam make the building even more attractive as a location for other types of events that would still bring people to GP and drive economic activity downtown. We need to talk about that and make a plan.

Unfortunately I don't have time to really put all my thoughts down so for now I'm just sharing some notes of interest from the staff report at yesterday's meeting:

The $38M estimate is from November 2009 and breaks down as:

East Expansion $12.2M
- To the east, a major expansion well beyond the face of the existing building. ...the development is on three levels and includes:
• on the lowest level and new entrance lobby specifically for the Canada Games arena, a new ticket lobby, sports shop and offices for the [Storm] sports team
• the concourse level is a combination of new and existing construction. One of the main features... is that it will provide the main means of access to both the existing north and south concourses.
• the upper level... has probably the greatest "enhanced" value... as it provides a number of leasable suites. ... 8 suites plus a party room.

North Expansion $9.9M
- To the north, expansion would be within the building resulting in some significant renovation but no additional building with the exception of private suites on the roof structure of the existing shared lobby. Other features of the north expansion:
• Conversion of the current administration area in to back of house storage, expansion of the existing concession and a reduction in the overall size of the shared lobby which effectively becomes part of the Bowes Family Crystal Gardens.
• on the concourse (2nd) level relocation of the concourse from inside the bowl to under the seating...
• at the upper level a major provision of suites and a lounge overlooking the Bowes Family Crystal Gardens

West Expansion $4.5M
- to the west and expansion to the property line and 101 Street. This expansion is primarily about providing additional back of house space to the event level. It's main benefit is the increase in additional flat floor seating for both end-stage and centre-stage concerts.

Contingency $2.6M
Design Fees Ect. $4.4M
Bowes Side Expansion $3.7M
- little detail given in the report but would likely include additional space for breakout rooms which are a frequent request for conferences and events as well as floor replacement.

Admin also had suggestions on possible sources revenue that would help pay for the expansion. Some we could do now and some would basically be new revenue coming from the new features of the expanded facility. All together they could total up to $730,000 per year. They were:

Leasing Luxury Suites
- 24 suites leased for 3, 5 or possibly 10 years. Prices could range from $17,500 to $22,000 per year. At the bottom end that would provide $420,000 per year in revenue and on the top end it would be $528,000.

Club Seats
- 100 large, padded seats, in prime positions. The would be leased out yearly for between $500 to $700 and the lease holder would have right of first refusal to purchase their seat for all events. Approx revenue per year; $60,000.

Naming Rights Sponsor
- a 5 to 10 year agreement for the naming rights of the building could generate $75,000 to $100,000 per year.

Facility Fee Increase
- we currently charge a small fee on the price of each ticket that goes towards capital improvements like the new sound system in the Bowes side, new theatre draping curtains. Currently the fee sits at 4% of the ticket price to a maximum $1 per ticket and is being saved to replace the digital sign along 99th Ave that has been out for years. This could be increased to 5% and a maximum of $2 per ticket, generating about $75,000 per year.
On a side note, I suggested that we should consider this whether or not we do the expansion.

Paid Parking
- charing for lots to the West, South & East of the building. Could generate $50,000 to $80,000 per year.

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