We had a good discussion today on the Saskatoon Afternoon Roundtable about hockey fights and the Mayor’s lack of leadership on active transportation and cutting congestion on Saskatoon City Streets. I may have called him “clueless”. If I would have brought my “A” game, I would have called him the “Gary Bettman of Mayors” and bridged the segments. Next time (we talk municipal politics and hockey in the same segment).
I love Cairns Field. It seats 5000 people which is small enough to feel cozy yet large enough to feel like an event. The best part of it is that if you are there, you are watching some pretty good baseball being played by the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets on a warm Saskatoon summer night.
The bad part about Cairns Field is it’s location. It’s tucked away between Holiday Park and the South Industrial section. It’s hard to get to and even hard to find. I have had more than one person that was going to meet us at the game text and ask, “now where exactly is this Cairns Field”.
Cairns Field represents Saskatoon’s best chance at professional sports. Professional basketball in Canada is the Toronto Raptors, we aren’t big enough for MLS or even NASL soccer, the CFL won’t put an additional team in Saskatchewan, and those that think that the NHL is coming are delusional (I’ve heard the arguments and they aren’t based in reality). Minor league baseball (and maybe an AHL team) is the one team that can thrive in Saskatoon but it’s going to be hard if it is stuck back in it’s current location.
So where do you put it? Well baseball needs to be close to downtown and close to amenities. That is going to be a challenge anywhere in Saskatoon unless we can put it in the North Downtown redevelopment where the city yards are currently located.
I am not saying it is ever going to happen but it would be an amazing place to walk down to and have dinner and then watch a game followed by a couple of drinks at a nearby pub. They have done it in Winnipeg and for 50 nights each summer (plus playoffs) up to 7481 people come downtown to enjoy The Forks and watch a game (and spend money while down there).
A cozy stadium of 5,000 seats in the heart of Saskatoon with affordable ticket prices? I can see that working. Especially if we can find a way to up the quality of ball being played to A or AA baseball.
If that fails, maybe the city can build a decent website for the field that makes it clearer that it exists and how to get there. That would be a good first step.
Gordie Howe Bowl is a terrible stadium and it will be even after the renovations. I know its home to the Saskatoon Hilltops, the 834 time Canadian Junior Football champions but that doesn’t mean it’s a decent stadium.
The stands are a long ways away from the playing field and the seats are sloped well back. It’s more a saucer than it is a bowl which means that the stadium is quiet, even with a crowd full of cow bells and air horns.
The concessions are terrible which makes a bad game day experience worse., even if watching the Saskatoon Hilltops is always worth your time and money. For high school football, the size is too large even for frosh week or rivalry games. Even when attendance is goodl, half of the stadium is empty.
Proponents of Howe Bowl point out that the improvements (larger dressing rooms that no one uses), concessions, and field turf will make the game better. Field turf has shredded (63%) more knees (players hate it) and caused more concussions than decent grass ever has. The medical evidence for keeping players on natural grass is significant, especially since most high school seasons are done before the extreme cold hits (I know there are exceptions, I have played in them). By upgrading Howe Bowl and making it cheaper to maintain (our city’s m.o.) we are making it less safe for high school athletes.
The solution is to stop the fundraising for the stadium and move the Hilltops to Griffiths Stadium. As for high school football, construct metal stands on each high school field like they do in almost every other city in North America and have them play there. Most high school fields are in good shape and the addition of some bleachers means that home field would really mean something.
As for the Hilltops, it isn’t as if this is a big move as the Hilltops play late season games at Griffiths each season after the high school teams have destroyed the turf at the Bowl. Canadian championships have been won at Griffiths Stadium. It has history for both the Huskies and Hilltops not to mention city high school games and even the Charity Bowl.
Gordie Howe Bowl has a lot of tradition but there is no need to have a separate field for both the Huskies and Hilltops. The field is out of date and the upgrades will make it dangerous for players. It was a poorly conceived idea from the start.
Plus, this commercial makes a lot more sense when a high school actually has a “home field”.
This is what happens when you spend too much time watching video of Saskatoon City Council debates.
We all love the Meewasin Valley but its location makes it cold in the winter. The wind whips through the South Saskatchewan River valley and brings either cold or humidity up onto the paths until it chills our bones. It’s isn’t that winter friendly.
While Meewasin Valley does do a good job in keep its trails clear of snow (ahem, City of Saskatoon, it is possible), a walk from the Mendel Art Gallery to the Farmer’s Market is enough to make you question your desire to keep living here.
To steal an idea from Winnipeg, how about some warming huts places along the river.
Winnipeg’s huts are designed by architects around the world and are a combination of temporary and year after year structures and they go a long way in making it easier to get out and enjoy the winter in Winnipeg. In Saskatoon it would go a long way in allowing us to connect our downtown from the Mendel all of the way to the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market, even in the dead of winter.
This portion on the September 9th Saskatoon City Council debate on the flat tax is disturbing on so many levels. As you can see in the video clip above, the Mayor is talking about how he doesn’t see the City having a role in wealth redistribution and then goes on to mention affordable home ownership; which is a city run wealth distribution program as money is raised by the Land Bank selling lots at market value and then funnelled into affordable housing and attainable home ownership programs.
Then he launches into the city not using ad volarem for super pipes and doesn’t quite realize that it is only a $2 fee. Recycling mean while is a fee for service (which is only $4.66 a month). Finally he gets into the part when he says the people he care the most about are the seniors. I know what he is saying but there are a lot of people on the west side of the city (that don’t vote for him) that have not benefitted from the economic expansion in Saskatoon and they would be badly hurt by a base tax as well. So by somehow wanting to keep them in their homes, he plans on taxing them more.
If you listen to the end, you will hear Coun. Darren Hill challenge the mayor on his suggestions that those who are in favour of Ad Volarem taxes are forcing seniors out of their homes (which is wrong on multiple levels, especially since most low income seniors would pay less taxes under Ad Volarem than under a base tax) and the Mayor denying and demanding an apology.
Yet it seemed to have some council members unduly flummoxed, particularly Mayor Don Atchison whose convoluted argument in support of the base tax included insisting that it’s not up to the city to redistribute wealth and claiming that increasing the property tax threatens to throw widows out on the street.
The first part of that argument is clear: The city is responsible for providing services such as maintaining the streets. If charging a ratepayer whose property is assessed to be worth $50,000 the same $170 that is charged to someone whose property is assessed at $1.8 million, well, that’s just fair.
But the second argument appeared to be a non sequitur that contradicts the first. It strayed into wondering why more lowincome seniors haven’t taken advantage of a city program that would allow them to defer payment of tax increases and allow that money to eat into the value of their homes.
The mayor’s argument was so convoluted that it devolved into a painful-towatch war of words with Coun. Darren Hill, who insisted that his rejection of the proposed base tax wasn’t meant to deprive widows of their homes.
“That’s not what I said and I demand an apology,” Atchison replied.
Well, I apologize because, like Hill, that’s what I heard.
Attaching a flat tax that would require 85 per cent of civic ratepayers to pay more in relation to the value of their homes so the remaining 15 per cent – including commercial properties valued in the millions – won’t have to face increases clearly would have a detrimental impact not only on hardpressed seniors on fixed incomes but also on the vast majority of citizens.
In case you are wondering, I downloaded the MP4 of the entire council meeting (40 minutes), imported all four hours of video into iMovie (45 minutes), watched it (kill me now), and then edited some interesting clips and uploaded them to the OurYXE YouTube Channel. I keep hearing from people who are interested in Council stuff but have no desire to watch hours of it. Hopefully this will make some of the debates easier to get into. Of course it almost makes it a lot easier to blog about.
When the Traffic Bridge closed a couple of years ago, the city was in a near state of panic. Idylwyld Bridge was being repaired and traffic was atrocious. People screamed for a replacement bridge despite a) few people ever used it b) whenever we take one of our bridges offline, Traffic Bridge or not, downtown backs up.
Now we have a new South Circle Drive Bridge and soon will have a new North Commuter Bridge which will change traffic patterns even more. Despite that, City Council has decided that we need three bridges within a kilometre of each other and is dedicated to rebuilding what the city administration basically described as a surplus bridge.
There is another alternative and that is to turn it into a pedestrian bridge, something that could strengthen the ties between Nutana and the downtown core/River Landing tremendously.
1.new views 2.public gathering place 3.zip-line 4.enclosed vertical garden 5.separated bike/pedestrian access
As they see it.
This resulted in a ‘new’ bridge, one that retains some glory of its former self but a ‘new’ bridge that sets out to enhance the existing qualities of the river valley. While it maintains its original connection points on either side of the river it also presents new stronger connection to existing conditions. Its reconfigured spans offer new views in all directions including glass portholes that let users see below the deck. The ‘new’ bridge also proposes a zip line as a new form of passage that reconnects the bridge to Rotary Park and adds new adventure for thrill seekers alike. There is ample opportunity for gathering and a separate bicycle lane to ensure safety. It is a hub for artists, theatre groups, musicians, poets, festival and event organizers. And because Saskatchewan is known for its culture of growing, the ‘new’ bridge would provide the infrastructure required to support a vertical community garden that produces food year round.
This story ends with a ‘realized’ project that retains a piece of its past but reinterprets its trajectory to better serve and enhance the existing and future community through a representation of a perceived experience.
As other cities have shown, pedestrian cities bond a community more than a traffic bridge does. With Saskatoon unable (and unwilling) to even clean it’s bridge decks in a timely fashion, crossing any of Saskatoon’s bridges on a wet or dry dusty day is not the most pleasant experience. No wonder people prefer to use pedestrian bridges, especially ones that look like the rendering by OPEN.
Especially if there is a zip line.
Saskatoon loves to talk about how it is a business friendly city and touts our lower taxes. As other cities have learned, being business friendly means a lot more than lower taxes, it means less red tape.
In 2010 the City of Calgary created the Cut Red Tape program to reduce red tape at The City of Calgary. The focus of the program was to remove red tape and make changes that result in our citizens and businesses seeing visible improvements. Some of those changes were small, constant irritants and others may be larger, fundamental issues in regulations or business processes. The aim is to shift our culture from a regulator perspective to a facilitator. The program has been supported by Council and funded through approved applications to the Council’s Innovation Fund on a project-by-project basis.
There are some real cost savings both to taxpayers and to the city. Take a look below.
Cities around the word are hearing from world class businesses that “business friendly” is a lot more than low taxes, it’s about creating a climate where business can be conducted easily. It’s something that Saskatoon has a way to go on but as Calgary is showing, it is something that can be improved.
Why can’t we do this in Saskatoon with our three mills?
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which oversees the development of the Buffalo waterfront, has come up with the plan, and they’ve enlisted Ambiances Design Production to do the lighting work. As the Buffalo News notes, Ambiances has received praise for a similar project in Quebec City, which was originally planned as a one-time show, but was adopted as an annual light show because of its success. Part of what makes Ambiences’ work unique is that it involves narrative storytelling, and it could be used to tell Buffalo’s stories.
Buffalo’s civic leaders think that could be key to drawing tourists to the reenergized Outer Harbor and Silo City areas. “People have talked for years about getting some of the people who go to Niagara Falls. Well, this is the type of thing, because of the spectacle of it, and because the Buffalo grain elevators are so otherworldly, that will get people down here,” preservationist Tim Tielman told the Buffalo News.
The first phase of the project will involve lighting a couple of large grain elevators near the waterfront, along with the underside of the Skyway and the Michigan and Ohio street bridges. The second phase would involve illuminating a total of 14 grain elevators, and incorporating fire, pyrotechnics and 3D video projection on the side of the Connecting Terminal grain elevator, which is located just at the edge of the recently-revitalized Buffalo Harbor.
Lately I have been tossing around a bunch of ideas that would make Saskatoon a better city to invest, work, live, and play in. I kept them in a Moleskine and was going to put together a website but after thinking about it, I am going to post them here starting tomorrow. That will make them the longest series I have ever posted (or written).
Normally I don’t really care that much about comments but if you have some, let me know as i’d love to hear your feedback on this series.
Today while taking Oliver to Mayfair School (which has a great new park that just opened), a car went through the intersection while we were approaching the crosswalk. I never thought too much about it but the guy pulled ahead, got out, and waited for us and then apologized for driving through the intersection while we were there. He said that it drives him crazy how cars ignore crosswalks, plus he was in a school zone.
I am not sure that he was as guilty as he said (we were about 4 feet away from the corner) but it was really nice to hear someone respect pedestrians and kids. We accepted his apology, Oliver chatted with him and his kid, and went off to class. As we were walking out, he apologized again and said that his older kid had to jump out of the way of a speeding idiot last year in a school zone which is why he was a little sensitive to it. I would be as well. Still it’s nice to know that even if we don’t always get it right, at least people are trying.
A pedestrian bridge in that location could be an incredible asset to Saskatoon in linking together the Nutana area and downtown, similar to what Calgary has experienced with their pedestrian bridge. It’s a place where people want to be.
A group of Saskatoon residents who are renewing calls to rethink the future of the derelict Traffic Bridge say a new bridge shouldn’t involve vehicle traffic at all.
“Lots and lots of people have changed their minds about that bridge. We’ve lived without it for three years,” said Marcel D’Eon, one of the founders of the Saskatoon Coalition to Revisit and Reimagine Our Urban Bridge. The group, formed in June, is the latest to call for a pedestrian-and cycling-only bridge to replace the iconic 104-year old span, which was closed permanently in 2010 because of safety concerns.
During initial public consultations, a majority of residents said they wanted a pedestrian-only bridge. Despite those findings, city council pushed ahead with plans to build a $35-million replica steel truss Traffic Bridge capable of carrying vehicles as well as people and bikes.
While there is still no funding for the bridge, city officials have applied to the federal government’s P3 fund for joint Traffic Bridge and Parkway Bridge projects that have a combined value of over $230 million. The province’s portion of the cash is expected to come through the provincial government’s SaskBuilds program. Neither level of government has confirmed its support for the project.
If funding is approved, the Traffic Bridge would be complete by 2017. It would be financed under the same scheme and built by the same company as the parkway, to save around $250,000 in costs.
By bundling the construction of a new Traffic Bridge with the north parkway project, council effectively decided for the second time that the bridge would be a vehicle bridge.
In a lot of cities, politicians are unreachable and need to be lobbied. Saskatoon isn’t like that as we have a culture of approachable politicians at the civic and provincial level. How approachable are they? Well some even troll citizens. Check out this tweet by my city councillor.
— Darren Hill (@darrenhill1) August 24, 2013
Of course the background was that I have been criticizing council (and Darren Hill) for voting for six lanes on the bridge when the city’s own report says it isn’t going to be necessary. We have been taking lots of shots at him (and others) on Twitter and in person for the bridge and last night he replied with that tweet which made me burst out laughing.
Some politicians take their jobs and their positions very seriously but its good to see some of them being able to laugh and make fun of themselves and in their case, troll those that disagree with them, even if the 6 lane North Commuter Bridge is still a bad idea.
These were some of the replies
— Hilary. (@theotherHilary) August 24, 2013
— Jordon Cooper (@JordonCooper) August 24, 2013
— Hilary. (@theotherHilary) August 24, 2013
— Hilary. (@theotherHilary) August 24, 2013
Every dollar of profit raised from the inaugural August 21st event will be donated to the Foundation’s purchase of Saskatchewan’s first digital electron microscope that will dramatically advance diagnoses for renal, cardiac and neurological patients. The evening presents Jeans n Classics fascinating marriage of the music of Queen accompanied by the classic sounds of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. The setting is natural outdoor prairie at its finest, lit by a full moon and the power of first nation’s culture at the Whitecap Sports Centre located approx 30 kilometers south of Saskatoon on HWY 219, turn right on Sports Centre Road. Come casual, come hungry, come for fun with family and friends at Saskatoon’s first Evening Under the Stars!