I've pretty much accepted the fact that the event center is going to be built. I spent a long time on the fence, wanting to believe that it had the potential to offer long-term benefit to the community. I had a hard time keeping an open mind, because the supporters were so clearly led by the hockey boosters and their tactics of manipulating the student vote were so venal and self-serving.
But I put my doubts aside and tried to work to turn the Big Rink into a civic amenity -- a community center that held events rather than an event center that offered no amenities to the community.
I went to meetings, helped organized groups, was alternately bludgeoned and courted by officials hell-bent on getting the Rink. More interesting and informative, though, were visits to Grand Forks and conversations with folks who worked near The Ralph -- our fantasy model of what the Big Rink will be. Their observations were as simple as they were consistent: "It's mostly empty most of the time." That, I'm sad to say, became my bottom line.
But now it's coming. It's rolling like a bad economic snowball down on the region and its residents. We're getting the Big Rink whether we like it or not. And we're getting it whether it will work or not.
Anyone who wants to do a controversial project knows that there is only one rule -- just get the damn shovels in the ground. Then all the naysayers have to shut up. The city, furrow browed and conflicted as it is about this project, is readying its shovels.
I've given up. The consultants have been ignored. The people's desire for a revote has been given the back of the hand. The city's attorney has tortured the law to justify every decision that supports going forward while rejecting every case for holding back. And the City Council has calcified into a slim majority that will pass every Big Rink initiative while arguing over bids for doorknobs as if that is the real issue at hand.
I just want you leave you with one thought as the shovels hit the dirt: you are the city's insurance policy against the failure of this project. Your taxes are its bailout money.
So, enjoy the hockey games and the tractor pulls. Even if you don't attend them, you'll be paying for them.