Sports venue expert weighs in on Saskatoon’s downtown events and entertainment district – Saskatoon

The debate over the potential of Saskatoon’s Downtown Event and Entertainment District still divides many residents on the issue, but one sports venue expert says the city could make some money.

Mark Rosentraub, a professor of urban and regional planning based at the University of Michigan, said he has worked for many decades with cities to get a return on investment.

“It’s not a subsidy, it’s a strategic investment and a key piece of infrastructure. ‘How can we make sure that we don’t actually subsidize it, but get a return on our investment?'” Rosentraub said.

He gave the example of Edmonton which is trying to revitalize its downtown areas.

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Rosentraub said Edmonton conducted an experiment in which it tried three approaches: an event center, a transit-oriented development, and an area where it consolidated property.

“And then they watched the real estate development over the years. The most successful one is the Arena District.

He explained that there are three phases in people’s lives: the phase where we graduate and pursue an urban lifestyle, the family formation phase, and then the return to an urban lifestyle if people live long enough.

“So we have within us these two demographic components that we can now satisfy. That’s why it tends to work.

He pointed out that the entertainment industry is changing drastically.

“Just like the way we receive our information, it’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago.”

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He said if an arena was built in Saskatoon today, it would take three to four years and operate for another 25 years.

“It’s not that the existing arena doesn’t work, it’s just in the wrong place and it was designed for the way entertainment was delivered 30 years ago.”

It was pointed out that Edmonton has sports like the NHL to fill arena seats and Saskatoon does not, but Rosentraub said other sports can fill that role.

“There will be sports. There won’t be an NHL, but there are lacrosse-related things. People buy sports because it’s fun, exciting, and competitive, and as long as there’s competitive sport, it’s a part of the calendar.

“Never forget that the Oilers play 41 games a year, and if they make the playoffs, you get a few extra weeks of activity. For an arena to be successful, it must have 150 events.

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He said each arena faces the challenge of filling those extra days of events.

Rosentraub said this is an a**lytical discussion currently underway to determine how cities like Saskatoon are tracking changes in the entertainment industry.

Reports on the potential entertainment district are being drawn up with the aim that the city council will begin reviewing them in early 2024.

The conceptual design, convention center options, community benefits framework, project scope, and funding strategy are all reports scheduled for release in January and February.

Further reports are expected throughout 2024, including the District Plan Approval Report, which will review the results of the public engagement and design process, due around mid-2024.

&copy 2023 PKBNEWS, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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