Opinion: Do We Need A 4,400-Seat Arena?
If you build it they will come?
Who is “they?”
Council approved a plan looking at a 2,200 seat arena complex for Chatham, and then threw a last second Hail Mary to change their plans to a 4,400 seat arena…
Hopefully this was not on the heels of the “Build The Complex CK” groups push, which other than a little word of mouth, drew very little public interest at their meetings, very little following on social media, and had no credible backers. That said, I commend anyone passionate enough to advocate for something they care about.
So why did we pull a rabbit out of our proverbial hats, and flip the switch to a 4,400-seat arena last minute?
I. Have. No. Idea.
Is an Ontario Hockey League franchise imminently destined for CK? No. It can’t be, considering there is no timeline for an arena.
The most recent franchise moves of the OHL, have gone to the United States, and communities that previously had OHL franchises and lost them.
Do the Chatham Maroons need 4,400 seats? No. In fact, it would greatly take away from the atmosphere. The 2,200-seat version will still be half empty almost every night, and 4,400-seats will feel like the team is playing in front of an empty house.
That leads me to believe this must be for entertainment purposes.
The Municipality must be ready to go head to head with Caesars Windsor and Budweiser Gardens in London to steal their performers, because the draw for a single act to play in all three locations, based on population, is unlikely. And what would this do to the Capital Theatre?
Let’s get back to sports here.
If we are saying publicly we want a 4,400 seat arena, the only, and I mean only goal for this should be an OHL franchise. What wasn’t included in this vote, is the knowledge that if this is the goal, we also need to budget a few dozen luxury boxes into the equation.
This also means our timeline to lure an OHL team to Chatham-Kent needs to mirror the timeline for construction identically.
I hope this vote wasn’t listening to a few individuals in the community, or pushing personal preferences.
This is not a complicated matter. 4,400-seats = OHL franchise. If this is not the case, we need to immediately back-pedal to the originally planned 2,200 seat arena, which will perfectly suit our Maroons moving forward, and is still a larger facility than the current entertainment venues in Chatham-Kent.
We get one chance to do this right. And the last second change of plans, after months of planning and community input, speaks more, in my opinion, to the preferences of council, rather than the needs and preferences of a community, whom council are meant to represent.