Saskatoon

An urban arena will work in Saskatoon, say U.S. expert

Mark Rosenstraub, with 30 years of experience helping cities re-energize their downtowns with new arenas, is on his way to Saskatoon to speak at TCU Place, and his message is pretty clear.

Mark Rosentraub has been researching the economics of arenas for decades

Mark Rosentraub thinks a new sports arena and convention centre somewhere in downtown Saskatoon would prove to be an economic boost to the city and would help convince more young people to stay. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Saskatoon may be a decade away from shutting down its very suburban arena and building a new one in the city's downtown, but the hype is already building.

Your problem is maintaining human capital.- Mark Rosentraub  

"Sport venues have been very, very successful," said Mark Rosentraub, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan.

Rosentraub, with 30 years of experience helping cities re-energize their downtown with new arenas, is on his way to Saskatoon to speak at TCU Place, and his message is pretty clear.  

"There is no city where we have not been able to literally put something together something where the public sector gains and the private sector gains," he told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

Public, private payoff

Such a project here would involve a great deal of tax payer money, but Rosentraub believes the investment is worth it, as a downtown arena spurs new economic growth and cuts down on the infrastructure costs associated with the sort of urban sprawl that's happening in Saskatoon.   

Rosentraub points to Edmonton as a place where a new urban arena has helped generate excitment in the city's downtown. (CBC)

Rosentraub has written a handful of books on the subject along with dozens of articles, but he said this is not just an academic argument, and suggested the doubters simply need to cast their gaze to neighbouring Alberta for real-life examples of how urban arenas work.

"One can look at Edmonton, one can look at Calgary — these are cities that have really utilized an entertainment district anchored by sport venues."

Hipsters wanted 

Rosentraub's vision of a new Saskatoon includes a young, hip demographic, mixed with retired people, all living together in high-density housing, in the shadow of a new sports complex.

An artist's depiction of pedestrian streets in Calgary's East Village. Rosentraub says Calgary is an example of a city that has utilized an entertainment district anchored by sport venues. (Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

"You don't have trouble attracting human capital, your problem is maintaining human capital and making sure you don't export that," he said.

"We have to build a downtown that's so exciting that students who enjoyed their life at the university decide that they want to build their life in Saskatoon."

Rosentraub brings his pro-urban arena message to TCU Place at 11:30 a.m. CST on Thursday, with a sold-out talk titled "How Sport Arenas, Entertainment & Culture Can Recentralize Ecomonic Activity." It's presented by the North Saskatoon Business Association, the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Saskatoon and Tourism Saskatoon. 

With files from Saskatoon Morning