Thursday, February 3, 2011

Build the World of the Dream

With so much talk the last few weeks about potential construction projects that can radically change the atmosphere of the City of Guelph, perhaps a little waxing and waning about nostalgia and the Royal City’s yesteryears was inevitable. As with all government projects, it never takes long for a strong vocal opposition to make its presence felt, as it was in the case of the proposed student high rises at Gordon and Stone, and now the proposed condominium at Woolwich and Macdonell.
The thing that gets me is with these issues is how people want to have their cake and eat it to. People want lower taxes, but the same (if not expanded) level of service. They want state of the art infrastructure and roads, but complain about the construction that makes it so. They hate having students spread out across the City and having a (perceived?) negative impact on their neighbourhoods, but they also don’t want them in all together in one place if it means building a tower.

These dualities are inherent in human nature. We want to park where we want despite the rules, yet see others punished by them. We want to eat junk food and stay paper thin. We want the exaltation of beating the latest Zelda game, but do so by looking up cheats online. We want a world of improbabilities, but reality has some strict rule about cause and effect. But what if it didn’t? What if you could build the Guelph of you dreams?


I have conflicting moments myself. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love the construction-in-progress inter-module transit hub. However, in the process of seeing the darn thing constructed, a couple of the added value items had to be tabled. Items like heated bus shelters and additional public washrooms had to be put on the “We’ll get to those later” list, and though that wasn’t the greatest news, it wasn’t really a deal breaker for me to not support the project. Really, I was more disappointed with the fact that the hub will close the pedestrian tunnel behind the current Greyhound terminal. There’s such wonderful graffiti down there.

As I recently noted on my blog, Guelph Politico, if I could conjure a change to Guelph, it would be to establish another movie theatre. Honestly, it need not be a state-of-the-art monstrosity of seizure-inducing lights and sounds, I’ll take a second run house like the old Three Star, where the popcorn flowed cheap and admission prices more inline with the quality of the Hollywood hogwash on its six screens. And I would get to this theatre by street car, which did actually operate in the Guelph of olden times. Sure, a recent survey conducted by a consultant said that Guelph’s streets were too skinny for light rail, but this is Inception world and I can widen the streets on a whim.

Other dreams, however, are less fanciful and have an actual shot at becoming reality. I refer to Guelph’s bid to become Canada’s Hockeyville. The contest put on by Kraft and the CBC, which closed last Sunday, invited Canadian residents to tell stories and send pictures about their local arena and prove why your community should be deemed “Hockeyville.” The prize is $100,000 in upgrades for the arena, a NHL pre-season game and a visit from Hockey Night in Canada. I’ll admit that last part got me excited because I have a lemon meringue ready for Don Cherry’s face after that “pinko-commie” bike rider comment at Rob Ford’s inauguration.

But aside from my own life goals, Guelph has responded with aplomb to the notion of being named Hockeyville. The amount of stories and photos provided about the arena in Exhibition Park put Guelph in the Top 3 cities in Ontario in terms of responses. (Guelph’s dedication certainly exceeded that of my hometown of Georgetown, which had a total of one story and one photo in support of its local arena.)

Could Guelph have done better though? Certainly an editorial writer in the Guelph Mercury thought so, and they were wondering where exactly the rookie Ward 2 Councillor, former NHL officiator Andy Van Hellemond, was with his vocal, public and sun eclipsing support for making his town Hockeyville. “We suspect Van Hellemond may be wary of jumping on this bandwagon because it could see him regarded anew as the ex-NHLer and not as a councillor with many interests,” said the editorial published on January 11th. “If that’s the case, don’t sweat such worries councillor. You’ll take a bigger political beating over sitting this one out than by jumping in.”

Call me kooky, but do you think that being a part of City Council for a little more than a month and looking down the maw of pressing issues concerning city development and finances might have Van Hellemond’s head in bigger places than getting Guelph a fake honorific. Besides, Van Hellemond was born in Winnipeg, so I’d wager that he doesn’t have a lot of childhood memories of skating at Exhibition Park, which is the point of this thing anyway.

And I may be dreaming, but considering that Guelph is the Royal City, isn’t winning the title of “Hockeyville” a little like the King of England abdicating and running for Mayor of Leeds. Just sayin’.


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