EDMONTON – On 105 Avenue, the juxtaposition could not be more striking.
To the south, Rogers Place looms large; the shiny new building replaces what was at one time gravel parking lots. To the north, a different story, as some of the city’s most vulnerable congregate.
The area is home to organizations like the Herb Jamieson Centre and Boyle Street Community Services.
“The job I’m looking for is something like in a restaurant,” Helen Herbert said.
It’s at Boyle Street Global News speaks to Herbert, a client of the agency. She looks to the new arena and hopes to find work.
“I’d like to get a full time job, anything that they need help with,” Herbert said, adding she’s okay with “doing dishes, cleaning tables.”
When the arena deal was approved, a community advisory committee was created. More than a dozen organizations are represented to look at ways to improve impacts on the surrounding area.
During the course of arena construction, 22 people were hired for work through community partners, according to the Oilers Entertainment Group.
In that time, the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation also invested $1.5 million for a new Hospitality Institute to be run by NorQuest College to train potential new employees. Most of the investment, $1 million, is set aside for bursaries.
With Rogers Place set to open, 175 people have been hired through inner city community partners for food and beverage work.
“We did reach out to 32 of the agencies that surround Rogers Place and hold a hiring fair specifically for them to invite their stakeholders and give them an opportunity to apply,” Susan Darrington, the general manager of Rogers Place, said.
“In our city, we’ve had no agreement,” Julian Daly with Boyle Street Community Services said.
While steps have been taken, some argue more needs to happen as the agreement isn’t binding.
“We knew that there was a requirement to provide skilled workers in the hospitality industry,” Daly said.
A University of Alberta researcher who studies the use of public funds for arenas adds to the argument.
“Those agreements often include commitments on the part of a developer to build social housing, to have commitments for living wages for all jobs associated with an arena development,” Jay Scherer said.
As Herbert, wearing her Oilers cap, looks at the new arena, she knows the prospect of a job is no guarantee.
“I hope so, but I don’t know.”