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Resisting the World-Class City: Community Opposition and the Politics of a Local Arena Development

While the public subsidy of major league sport franchises and associated urban development projects remains wildly popular in some constituencies, these expenditures have, increasingly, been met with organized resistance. This article examines the formation of Voices for Democracy (VFD)—a grassroots community group that opposed the use of public funds to build a CAD $606.5 million arena and entertainment district in Edmonton, Alberta. I begin by providing an analysis of VFD’s division of labor and the collective development of the group’s political claims and tactical repertoire to challenge a powerful growth coalition between 2011–2013. Next, I examine the unfavorable political opportunity structure that set decisive limits on what the group could challenge. The article concludes with a discussion of why VFD was unable to cultivate a more widespread coalition of support and, in turn, how the ‘boosterish’ coalition in Edmonton—a coalition that included the Edmonton Oilers, the downtown business community, the mayor and a majority of council, and senior civil servants—were able to contain opposition over the course of this divisive debate.