After attending the open house on the proposed expansion of the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, hearing some of the conversations there and giving the matter some more thought, I shared my recommendations on the matter to the City of Kitchener.
I remain supportive of the expansion.
Traffic and parking are clearly the biggest concern of residents near the Aud as demonstrated by this Kitchener Citizen article. But before approving the deal, the Rangers should be required to have a firm plan in place to deal with the additional need for parking and the city needs to be prepared for the resulting increase in traffic and safety concerns. These concerns include the ability for emergency vehicles to easily navigate surrounding residential streets in the winter.
The Rangers need to firm up their proposal to run a shuttle bus from city parking garages. The same or a second shuttle service should also pick up passengers at the GRT Terminal and at the Ottawa and Charles LRT stops. To encourage transit use, I like the idea proposed in a letter to the editor of the Record to give people with a Rangers ticket a free ride on game/event days. Rather than wait until next season, I suggest that we start to change people’s behaviour as soon as possible by implementing these options before the end of this season.
There seem to be a number of people who are willing to pay to park illegally. To end that practice fines should be increased on game/event days and/or repeat offenders should be towed instead of a second ticket.
I would also encourage the city to be proactive and extend the parking measures implemented a couple years ago to a wider zone in anticipation of that zone getting larger. At the same time, it might be helpful to review if the side of the streets that allow parking are the best choices for efficient and safe traffic before and after the game/event.
The focus of the discussion has been around parking for Ranger games. It’d be great if the expansion saw the building being used more often and attract large crowds. The same measures should be used for any event at the Auditorium where parking is expected to exceed onsite parking.
Finally, consideration should also be given to how parking onsite could be increased perhaps by removing the Centennial Stadium stands or relocating Jack Couch Park. We should also begin to actively plan for the day when the Auditorium is no longer large enough to meet the needs of a growing Waterloo Region.