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But where are they going to park?
by Carrie Debrone
Kitchener Citizen
Although many of the 50 people who attended a public information meeting about expanding the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium like the proposal, they are concerned about parking and traffic on the streets around the facility.
   The city hosted an October 12 neighbourhood meeting asking for feedback on a proposal by the Kitchener Rangers hockey club, which could lead to an expansion that would add 1,000 seats to the arena, as well as a third-level concourse, a fourth-level media room and loft-style suites, concessions, washrooms and renovated team space, including dressing rooms, player services, offices and retail area.
   The additional seats would bring The Aud’s seating capacity to about 7,800 and help reduce the 1,300 names currently on a waiting list for season tickets.
   The Kitchener Rangers would fund the $9.6-million expansion, but has requested that the city provide funding in the form of a repayable loan, based on a 15-year repayment schedule.
   Streets surrounding The Aud are regularly bloated with the parked cars of Ranger’s fans on home game nights and when The Aud hosts other events. Currently, the Aud has parking for about 1,900 cars.
    “I think it’s a fantastic idea and we won’t be forced into dealing with building a townhouse complex on the site, which is what would happen if they were to move,” Paul Mount, a Pandora Street resident said of the expansion.
    “My only concern is with the parking. It didn’t work during the Memorial Cup, so what makes them think it will work now? You can’t get a fire truck up some of these streets when they’re packed with cars,” he commented at the open house.
    “They’ve got the space. Why don’t they put in a parking garage? I don’t see how they are going to squeeze 500 more cars into the area,” Mount said.
   “Where are they going to park? Our side streets are already packed,” said Tanya Hintz, an Ottawa Street resident. Although Hintz said she and her husband Chris are not Ranger’s fans, they came to the meeting concerned that the city was planning to expand the auditorium’s parking by buying property on Ottawa Street. They found out at the meeting that there are no plans to do that.
   Griffin Ave. resident Liz Klinkman also agreed.
   “It’s great that we’ve got the support for more seasons tickets, but there’s definitely a parking issue. This is going to push cars out further into the community and some of the older streets are already very narrow. We need to have a plan for parking,” she said.
   “I don’t have a problem with the expansion. I know we lose events because we don’t have the capacity. But, they have to do something about the traffic and parking,” said Shobana Rajan, who lives on Dumfries Ave.
   “People park so close to the edge of our driveways and they park facing the arena and then have to turn around when the game ends and they want to head back toward the Frederick Street entrance to the expressway,” she said.
   Parking on Dumfries Ave. was restricted to one side of the street about four years ago, but some people still park illegally.
    To alleviate congestion, Rajan suggested parking could be restricted to one side on other streets around the Aud, and better signs could be installed to direct people to the expressway accesses.
   Kitchener Aud area resident James Howe suggested the city should investigate using a shuttle service to get people to and from the Aud. People could then park in downtown Kitchener and take a shuttle bus to and from Ranger games. Howe said good connecting transit stops on the major streets surrounding the Aud are also important to give people a viable option other than driving a car to the games.
    If the proposal were ultimately approved, construction would take place from February through November 2012.
This bid is a significantly scaled-back, less-costly version of the proposal the Kitchener Rangers tabled in 2010, which sought approval from city council for a 3,500-seat expansion that would have cost about $65 million.
    It would have also required the city to loan the hockey club $44 million, which would have been repayable over 30 years. The city did not have the debt capacity to loan the club the funds required.
   The city’s Community and Infrastructure Services Committee will discuss the proposal on November 7. Kitchener city council will consider the proposal for final approval on November 14.