The hockey team that makes its home at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium sometimes loses the games it plays, much to the chagrin of the 6000+ people who attend 34 times per year. The City of Kitchener, on the other hand, simply cannot lose with the proposal put forward by the Kitchener Rangers Hockey Club to expand and renovate the grand ol’ dame on East Avenue.

In short, the City stands to get a larger sports and entertainmenty facility without spending a dime. The City will have to take out the loan but the principle and interest will be paid by the hockey team. It really is that simple. And while you could argue against the team’s ability to pay the loan back (with interest), you’d be arguing against history. The Rangers have simply never failed in this regard. Ever. In fact, their track record is to pay loans back faster than the agreed upon term.

So the City stands to gain a larger venue at no additional cost to taxpayers. At the same time, it benefits immensely from the larger facility. More seats equals more revenue from the sale of those seats. A larger spectator facility allows the City to pursue larger entertainment acts and trade or other shows that are better suited to the larger spectator space. That’s another financial windfall hitherto untapped. Then there are the spin-offs for other areas of the economy, such as restaurants, hotels and transportation companies. It almost becomes a secondary consideration that the Rangers will benefit from this expansion by virtually eliminating their existing waiting list for season tickets. The 1000+ people wanting to see all 34 Rangers games every year will be able to do just that with this expansion.

While this community will one day need a larger sports and entertainment facility, it simply cannot afford one today. While it’s fair to question the spending of $10-million on an aging facility today — not to mention the additional upgrades that will have to be made over the next 15 years of The Aud’s life — the renovation is still a financially prudent idea. It’s not only affordable (since the Rangers pay for it), it buys the City time to plan and save for the larger venue we will no doubt one day need.

There has been a lot of conversation lately about adding 1000 seats to a building that already suffers from a lack of parking. No doubt this is a need to be addressed but it should in no way be a deal breaker.

I live in the heart of the area affected by this expansion. People who attend hockey games and other events at The Aud park on my street each and every time because there is simply not enough space in the parking lot. But these people never block my driveway and, on many occasions, their presence has given me the chance to meet a fellow resident of my community…even if it’s just to say hi. Talk about opportunity!

So what will happen when The Aud is expanded? Well, from the standpoint of my neighbourhood, nothing changes. It’s not like more cars can park on my street. It’s already full. Instead, other streets in my neighbourhood will be in the same state as mine on game or event nights. But again I say, as a resident directly affected by The Aud’s nearby presence, this does not even register on the list of bones to pick with the City. I’m quite proud to live in the “Auditorium Neighbourhood” and I like the character and vibrancy the building brings to it.

To look at the people who park on my street as intruders is not only the wrong approach, it’s selfish. I’m certain there are times I’ve attended an event or venue and parked on someone else’s street. How would I feel if they made me feel unwelcome? We should concentrate on building our community, not building barriers.

Finally, there is no question that the City and the Kitchener Rangers will explore various options (carpooling incentives, shuttles, etc) to encourage people to bring fewer cars to the games or events. But in the end, should it matter? Our neighbourhood is better off with The Aud than without it, no matter its size. To complain of the “inconvenience” of having cars park on our street for 40-50 nights per year (maximum) seems petty. After all, the remaining 300+ nights are still our own.

Forget the “if you build it, they will come” mantra. They’re already here, and ready to come in greater numbers. I, for one, am waiting with open arms.