THE OPENING OF LITTLE BRICK

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If you want to read about the last eight games of the Oilers’
season against the Western Conference, who are licking their chops in
anticipation of handing our local squadron their asses, this ain’t the article
for you.

This is about decoupling our city’s self image from our beloved
Oilers until they can get their shit together and give us something
to believe in again.

Consider yourself warned.

One of the really interesting phenomena surrounding the
Oilers is that they have such a large impact on our collective city
swagger.  For many Edmontonians the
Oilers are Edmonton and vice versa. I count myself among those people. If they suck I feel like I suck too on some level. Ridiculous but true.

So when the Oilers decide to steer the ship into the ground
and be last place for almost a decade our city’s self image
suffers as a result. “The Oilers suck therefore we suck” is a strangely
contagious attitude among our fellow hockey fans.

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The protracted arena negotiations put this negative attitude towards building Edmonton on public display. There is
a very vocal group of people in Edmonton who think that 100% of available funds
should be pumped  into pothole maintenance and the rest of the city can
crumble into dust. This isn’t an Edmonton-only phenomenon but what is missing here is an equally loud camp of people devoted to building wicked stuff in Edmonton to
counteract this draining effect.

Say what you want about the arena and how it was handled in
the public domain (read: poorly), but I personally have an infinite amount of respect for
Daryl Katz and Mayor Mandel for getting this done and taking what was a large
gravel parking lot calling itself “North Downtown” and building what will be the nicest arena in the NHL. Not in Toronto, NYC or LA. 

In Edmonton.

This does a world of good for the city, bringing people and
businesses downtown to what was a wasteland before. Spare me the economic white papers
from people who haven’t built a thing in their lives telling us all it’s a sink
hole for cash. You can’t quantify the impact on our civic image when beautiful
stuff gets built and gets a ton of public use. You gotta have stuff to point to
where you can show your aunt visiting from Thunder Bay “look at all our nice stuff here in Edmonton Auntie Helen.* We rule.”

The arena will be an international calling card for a
generation or two. Believe that.

*Not an actual aunt

SWAGGER ON 1.5 OUT OF 1000000

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Because of OilersNation and approximately 12.5 billion career tweets, I get to interact with a lot of hockey fans around
the world. And a great many of those people have been telling me Edmonton sucks
since we started the site back in 07. Phase I of hearing this all the time was
telling them “NO YOU SUCK” in various ways. Over the years the Oilers have
given us zero things to be jacked about but Oilers fans have done a remarkable
job of holding our heads high on social media and still finding ways to tell
fans of way better teams to stuff it. Phase II is to start doing something to change this incorrect perception of the best place on Earth.

Edmonton is a funny city – a great many of us that live here truly think it does suck. We are blessed with a globally hot
economy, tons of cool stuff to do and a population of friendly people and sexy women.
We are near enough to the mountains to make a weekend ski trip a certainty. We
have a major airport that can whisk you away to wherever you want to go if you
need a break from our winter deep freeze. 

But our swagger and self worth is a
fraction of what it should be. It’s like our spirit broke a long time ago, from a
combination of economic recession, Calgary swallowing our business community
whole in the mid 90s and yes, our Oilers sucking the ol’ banana for as long as
anyone cares to remember. 

This is bullshit of the highest order.

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They want to change the name of the City of Champions for
heaven’s sakes. But the defeatist set that wants this to occur is
fortunately torpedoing itself due to the cost of making new signs at the city
limits. This is so cringe worthy that it bears repeating – we are too cheap to
remove our self titled Champion status signs and declare ourselves “City of Whatever.” It makes my eyes cry tears of blood.

Edmontonians should not only find examples of champions in
their midst and praise them by all means available but we should be building city signs of solid platinum using The Expensive Sign Corporation if this is
how we decide we need to move forward.

A NEW ERA IS UNDERWAY

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There are flickers of hope though, in the gloom and doom.
There is a new trend of Edmontonians engaged in a flurry of activity, doing an array of wicked stuff — new restaurants, new artists, new designers. New
companies proudly pumping themselves and Edmonton on social media and in press.
It’s a new phenomenon in Edmonton and it represents the turning of a great new page in
our history.

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This needs to be encouraged and we can all participate in our own ways to making Edmonton better. From where I sit we need a lot more of this can do spirit to rebuild our civic pride, including:

1. Get cool stuff happening – build cool places for more
cool stuff to happen. 

2. Promote the shit out of it #1

3. Repeat as necessary until pride restored.

PROMOTING YEG

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OilersNation and Tourism Edmonton has been
collaborating for a couple years now – bringing
in the cool kids like the Royal Half (LA) Steve Dangle (TOR) and Violent
Gentlemen (LA.) We showed them around Edmonton, watched the Oilers get
shattered and found these trips had an interesting dual effect. 

Firstly it
brings cool people to Edmonton. From what I am told people were recognizing the
VGHC at the Crashed Ice and couldn’t believe that they were in Edmonton. Why
exactly shouldn’t they be here? Edmonton rules and – ah never mind. 

*grinds teeth*

Secondly, guess
what: everyone we brought in had a fantastic time and left saying, “Wow,
Edmonton is actually pretty cool. I had no idea.” It makes the heart swell with
pride when pro skateboarding legend Mike Vallely comes to Edmonton, declares it
awesome and goes to a local skate park and busts moves for shocked Edmonton
kids. Same when Kings of Cool VGHC roll through and say, “Man, I had no idea this
is what Edmonton is like. It’s great.”

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We need to build new things we can be proud of and amp up
the events that bring people to the city. Look at the value of the Red Bull
Crashed Ice. There were people lined up on Jasper Ave like World
War II had just come to a close. It makes the heart swell again, seeing how everyone was so proud of how the city looked
and how nearly 100,000 people came out to watch. It was probably one of the
highlights of the last few years and had zero to do with the Oilers, the Eskimos or West Edmonton Mall – our usual calling cards. 

For too long we have relied on our sports teams
for our swagger. They have failed us on every level for almost a decade – we need to move on to new things and restore pride in Edmonton. Then these athletes will understand they would be oh so lucky to be considered Edmontonians and represent us on the world’s stage.

Here
is another new thing.

LITTLE BRICK

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In wandering around the River Valley last summer, we found a
wicked old 1903 mansion once owned by a founder of Edmonton, JB Little. His once ballin house had
been abandoned to tenants who had been throwing the party of the century for
the past six years in it.

The ol’ girl was in tough shape. Broken everything, pipes
and wiring predating Jesus himself. A who’s who of asbestos. Plenty
of reasons why no one wanted anything to do with buying it and it sat on the market for months.

Here in the nicest part of Edmonton, in an area devoid of
anything to do except sit on your porch, was an absolute jewel – just a little
bit down on her luck. At first I thought, “Oh man, what a shame that we let
things like this get ruined,” but then after talking with much smarter men than
I we decided to do something about it.

And so, six months later, Little Brick Café and General Store launches
tomorrow. You can read all the facts about it here in the Edmonton Journal here. Coles notes: It is an amazing cafe in an amazing old house like you see elsewhere and think, “Why don’t we have these in Edmonton?” 

We tricked an Edmonton Champion and cafe king Nate Box into getting involved, and he and his team should be commended for doing such a great job getting it built and ready to go.

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The Little Brick team will be hosting some awesome stuff here. We will be
offering inexpensive wedding packages in the impossibly posh yard we are rebuilding over the summer. We will also be rolling out a kickstarter sponsorship
program for any companies/products from Edmonton and area looking for places to
demo their ideas and raise cash. We are also working on using Little Brick as a venue for a
whole new level of awesome that is being plotted in bunkers deep underground.

It’s only a small step, but it is part of a larger movement already underway in Edmonton. Rather than thinking, “Why would we let this awesome Edmonton landmark get so gross and inevitably knocked down?” and blame Lauren Pronger, we rallied a team and did
something about it, and it is the tip of the iceberg for the plans we have in
the coming years. But for now, we have a firm flag planted in the River Valley
and we can start moving outwards and upwards.

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Maybe you don’t want to build a restaurant or restore an old
brick house. Maybe you don’t want to start a business selling bespoke footwear or start a blog covering all that is happening in Edmonton. But there are many things we can all do to continue rebuilding our
civic image while the Oilers try attempt #1048 to rebuild themselves. 

I bet we
can be done faster.

  • Puck_In_Throat

    Dear Wanye: Thank you for being such an engaged citzen of the YEG. I think that most Edmontonians are falling in the “we love the YEG” category these days. Great events like the Crashed Ice and the Triathlon Finals (last year) get people coming into downtown and realizing ‘Holy Crap, this is a cool city’.

    Even my friends from Toronto who visited said “wow, the restaurants here are amazing and the river valley is so cool!” …yea why do you think I keep saying that!!

    Wanye’s entrepreneurial spirit here is a true reflection of the spirit of the New YEG (trademark pending lol) that is helping Edmonton regain its swagger.

  • Kpat99

    I am a Calgary flames fan transplanted here for work. This is an amazing article and good for you for doing something for this city. I am constantly trying to convince my friends and family from Calgary that Edmonton is actually pretty awesome in spite of its garbage sports teams. The river valley is beautiful there are so many festivals and cool things to do all year round whether with your family or partyng with your friends you are never short of something to do. The food scene in this city is epic Calgary, as much as I love the city, has such a pretentious atmosphere about the restaurants and here you have amazing places like dadeos, tres carnales, the sugar bowl or jacks burger shack just to name a few. I came here seven years ago sad to leave Calgary and thinking I was stuck in a garbage hole but instead i leaned this city has so much to offer and is a blast to live in.

  • tileguy

    Great article. It is ambitious, free thinking, optimistic and positive people like you that will help Edmonton become a better city in the next couple of decades. Living here my whole life, 31 years, I have rode the roller coaster of loving and hating this city many times but with maturity and thru life experiences I have realized if you want to change something, you need to do it yourself and this city is better than most around the world and is full of opportunities.
    The Oilers may stink and there isn’t much a fan can do about that aside from turning off the TV and taking in games at Rexall, but this city, there is so much a person can do that can make a difference. Support local projects. Support local artists, musicians, film makers, writers. Support charities. And, if you have a dream and are passionate you can make this city a great place and others will support you and stand with you.
    Other sports fans may laugh at us when our Oil and Eskimos are terrible, but when it comes to where we will, how we conduct ourselves, the city we have all supported and built, others will respect us and admire us. Be inspired, dream big, help build a new city of champions.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Yes.

    There are a lot of great things about living here. People dwell on the negatives far too much. As for those signs, they can replace all of them with one giant Wanye MS Paint classic that says: “EDMONTON—LOVE IT OR GTFO”.

    • Morgo_82

      There are a lot of great things about living here. People dwell on the negatives far too much. As for those signs, they can replace all of them with one giant Wanye MS Paint classic that says: “EDMONTON—LOVE IT OR GTFO”.

      Maybe we can change the city’s motto to that. Would love to see it on the signs. LOL

    • gr8one

      Aaaw, I miss the Wayne MS Paint projects.

      God, imagine if Wayne ever gets to blog/draw about the playoffs? I assume he’s still a pre-teen, so playoffs might happen before his liver shuts down…

  • D

    “Spare me the economic white papers from people who haven’t built a thing in their lives.”

    Love this line!

    There is a vocal minority in Edmonton who have nothing good to say about anything. It’s great to see articles like this one working to counteract that trend.

  • Wayne: great article and thank you for being such a proponent for YEG! I couldn’t agree more with your mentality to build things we as citizens can be proud of. I see no reason why Edmonton can’t come to be known as Canada’s Coolest City. For a perfect example of this see El Cortez Tequila Bar and Kitchen that opened last year on Gateway and 83rd ave. The vibe in that place is unparalleled.

  • Morgo_82

    Awesome article, I am one to have a blurred identity of oilers=edmonton pride, but truth is this is a great city and I always seem to realize when I travel for extended periods. I’m pumped about the coffee house which is by my house. Will be checking it out soon

    • Prudham's

      Have you ever traveled anywhere? Most international airports are nowhere near the center of the city they are located in. It’s people like you that just complain and add nothing of value to this city. I have lived in numerous countries and mega cities and Edmonton isn’t as bad as people make it sound. Every city that is exciting to live in is because of the residents making it that way.

      • Gerald R. Ford

        These other cities you mention probably have good public transportation to account for the travel needed. I don’t see an LRT to the airport here. I guess that would be silly. We can’t even seem to build good public transport within the city limits so to the airport would be much too complicated. We are a bush league city.

          • tileguy

            Seeing this article about the “Little Brick” was pretty cool, seeing as how it’s my aunt and uncle’s old place! I grew up going to that house all the time and remember playing hours of Intellivision and shuffleboard in that living room! I moved away a long time ago, and hadn’t returned until a couple of years ago, and it was amazing to see what has happened on the old brickyard property after it was sold. I’ll have to go down there for a coffee one of these days!

        • That’s fair comment… to a point. The airport is under-served, in terms of public transportation options to and from the city, but from what I understand, it’s a work in progress. There will be or already are city buses running out there.

          And, to be honest with you, I’d still rather drive out to a suburban airport than have 737s and A320s buzzing over the middle of the city every 15 minutes on-final for landing. If that makes the city bush-league, then may it never come out of the bush.

        • SuntanOil

          This I don’t get, and if it is what fuels your loathing of the city then maybe you should cling to it.

          Three weeks ago I had to make two trips in and out of Miami International Airport, and was stuck in horrendous traffic both ways and both times. I remember thinking at the time that we are fortunate to not have our airport inside our city because the traffic would be unbearable.

          If you are in a position to plan and take a flight, you should be in a position to arrange your travel to and from the airport as well.

          if public transportation is the hill you want to die on, then keep in mind that ETS has the 747 bus running from century Plaza 24/7. Just because we don’t overspend to create convenience of an LRT for a small percentage of YEG users, doesn’t make us bush league, it just makes us smart.

          Miami has LRT going into it’s airport now, and nobody uses it. The city is broke, and can’t afford to keep funding losses on it.

          Detroit is bankrupt, and Chicago might be by the time yo read this, and yet their politicians are obsessed with building a LRT system between the two cities at a massive cost to everyone involved (and the maximum speed of this system will be 90 mph). Is that what we have to be like to not be considered bush league in your eyes?

          Don’t confuse Bush League with just not being stupid

          Fantastic article Wanye. I couldn’t agree more, and hope to see many more just like it.

    • If it takes you 55 minutes to get to the airport from central Edmonton, then maybe you shouldn’t be on the road, because you obviously don’t know how to drive. I lived basically as far North as you could go and took the airport road exit into Nisku to my job and it only took me 50 minutes. That’s travelling from the northern most part of the city to the airport….

  • CaptainLander

    Now if we can stop the sprawl and look at improving areas like little Italy and other areas around the core. Edmonton has a lot of nice and somewhat vacant areas around the core, would be nice to see more residential development and renovations of classic houses and replacement of decelerate houses. One can hope the new buildings downtown will draw more investors to areas surrounding it.

  • gr8one

    Good on you Wanye. Should you ever require the services of an Edmonton based Framing company, give me a shout, OilersNation reduced pricing for the Squeeee!

    When can we expect tours of Wanye manor??

  • gr8one

    This column was written as a call-to-action, but in my opinion, Edmonton should just keep on doing what it’s doing.

    Edmonton’s already a great place – nice river valley, great trail system, excellent golf, wonderful shopping, underrated Fort Edmonton Park, and all kinds of neat little restaurants, bakeries and bars. The summer street markets are amazing here – as good or better than anything you see in eastern Canada, where they’ve literally been doing farmers markets for centuries.

    I grew up in the Grande Prairie area and lived and worked there most of my life before moving to Edmonton about 18 months ago to advance my career. Since then, I’ve met the love of my life, got married, bought and sold a condo near downtown and moved out to Sherwood Park. This summer, my wife and I will have our first child.

    A lot of wonderful things have happened to me since I moved here, so I’ve obviously got some personal-life biases. I love Grande Prairie and would highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance to move there, but I really love the Edmonton area and I reckon I’ll live here forever.

    If you grew up here and you hate it … well… in my opinion, you’re just not doing it right. And if you still give a (hoot) about how Edmonton compares to Calgary, you need to chill out.

    As a lifelong Oilers fan, I grew up with an irrational disdain for Calgary and everything it stands for, but now that I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize how ridiculous it is to try to keep up with any city, never mind Calgary. If you look at many of the things that make Edmonton great it’s the things that are created people who don’t give two-ships about what the rest of the world is doing.

    Put it this way: Calgary doesn’t give a care about what the rest of the world thinks about it. Right now, Calgary sees itself as the “Gateway to the New West,” and good on it (although Winnipeg is probably wondering how the gate got moved so far west). Calgary’s attracting people from all over who think they’re in heaven because they can see mountains out the back window of their $750,000 two-bedroom bungalow. It has the Stampede. It has Crossiron Mills. It has swagger and unabashed self-confidence. Heck, Calgary loves itself so much, it still hires 65-year-old greeters, decked out with white Stetsons, faux-leather cowboy boots, and mom-jeans, to greet arriving passengers at its airport. It sees itself as the centre of everything without a single trace of irony-awareness or self-consciousness. In other words, Calgary is more like the “Toronto of the New West.” I’ll leave it up to you to determine if that’s a compliment.

    But that’s the point. If you don’t care what anyone else thinks – if you dance like no one is watching – that’s when you take flight.

    Edmonton’s starting to take flight but I’m not sure if the long-time locals know it yet. When the Oilers get good again, we will love it a little more, but we should all be proud to call it home right now.

  • Morgo_82

    If I did not have my own marine based business in BC, I would be a proud resident of YEG. I do travel back several times a year to visit family, and I have to say that there is always a great time to be had – whether on Whyte ave or downtown it seems that there is always a new hoppin pub or restaurant to check out.
    The people are great, friendly bastards and passionate about theiry (crappy) hockey team. From an outsider’s perspective, I haven’t’ really picked up on any inferiority complex vibe. I think it’s more a typically Canadian quiet confidence thing. Everyone that I speak to pretty much digs their city.
    Go cOilers!

  • DoubleDIon

    Edmonton sucks. Both at hockey and as a city. Hot women? Where? When I lived there the only hot women were the ones who moved there temporarily. The locals were all toothless and looked like badgers.

    The city is chock full of pawn shops and porn shops. Just go for a roll down Stony Plain road and count to see which there are more of. Even the newer parts of the city like Millwoods are depraved and vile.

    The cold never leaves and the landscape is reminiscent of a flat version of Siberia.

    Don’t even get me started on the sheer stupidity level of the citizenry. They should all come equipped with their own neck cones.

    Just kidding Edmontonians, your team and management sucks, but at least you’re still in Alberta. Believe me, things could be worse… You could live in Saskatchewan like me…

    • Are… Are you retarded? Maybe next time you come to Edmonton, don’t just visit family. Then maybe you won’t run into so many toothless people who look like badgers. There are a ton of beautiful women in edmonont, but you’ll never see them when you’re staying at your moms house in cromdale

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    If they indeed build that skating path I for one will be so jealous of anyone living in Edmonton. How cool to practice stick work on the way to work.

  • tileguy

    Wayne,

    Whats your opinion on the 2 tier system being implicated by the Oilers on concerts, ie season ticket holders get first dibs on seats. Dosen’t seem right to me, some of my tax money went into building that arena, just because I can’t affoerd to shell out 10k for hockey tickets.