Did you know that a new sports arena or stadium can generate massive economic activity? It’s true according to someone who used to work at the current Saskatoon arena in Canada, now called SaskTel Centre. For years now, the owners of the SaskTel Centre have been trying to get a new arena created, even without a professional sports team set to play in it.
Then last week, I saw an opinion piece in the Star Phoenix from a former executive who used to work in the SaskTel Centre. In it, he claims that the current arena “generates big economic spinoff” and “has created economic activity throughout the city”.
As proof, he cites an article from 2013, in which a former mayor who pushed for the arena to be built years prior, mentioned how it was “absolutely unheard of for a civic facility of this type” to be making money for the community on a yearly basis.
Let’s go see this article.
As (former mayor) Cliff Wright, 85, and (Arena) CEO Will Lofdahl head to a warren of offices inside the arena, Wright asks the younger man about financials. “To my knowledge, this is the only civic facility of its kind in Canada that has continually shown a net profit,” Wright says to Lofdahl. “I don’t know if that’s true, but there aren’t many that are …” Lofdahl replies. “Probably not,” Wright interjects.
Yeah, I am slightly confused as to why anyone would use this as evidence to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. The rest of the article concentrates on musicians playing in the arena over the years, and recent Western Hockey League games attracting people to the area.
Let’s ask a real estate professional how much has changed near the arena since it was built in 1998:
“When (SaskTel Centre) was built, there were very few businesses in the area and not much has changed”.
Not true. A Motel 6 was built near the arena in 2004. See how much growth the arena is providing?
Moving on. With absolutely nothing to back it up, the former employee decides to put forward that the total economic impact of the SaskTel Centre must be “in the hundreds of millions (of dollars)”. No study or anything to back this up.
Lastly, this former employee declares that a new arena would have an “objective to attract, create or produce a variety of projects that benefit the community and not require taxpayer funding”. Except, we know that any new arena for Saskatoon will require public money, and in large amounts. We don’t, however, even know the exact price of any new arena because the city won’t tell us.
Instead, we continue to get city leaked reports of how many economic benefits a new arena would bring to the area. One look at how they got to their numbers would explain why every economist clearly states that new sports homes don’t bring any significant economic benefits.
Several years ago, the City of Saskatoon announced that a proposed new arena would cost $178 million. As one reader correctly noted in a Star Phoenix letter, applying 7% inflation to that becomes $191 million in today’s dollars. Except, we don’t know whether construction costs, project costs or land acquisition were originally included in the cities estimate. If we include major capital projects into this project, the cost goes up towards $300 million.
No need to worry as the city is now telling us that even though estimates on the potential cost of construction are not available, the city will release a funding strategy by the summer. If you are eager to know more about the deal, you will need to sign a non-disclosure agreement, as CBC.ca found out.
Another reason that we have no details on the plan is likely due to the city leaders history of simply hiding the costs of this project from the public. Last year, city leaders asked for public input onto where a new arena should go.
Unknown to the public at the time was that the city had already decided on where the arena was going, bought land worth $25 million and spent millions more on other costs for this project. In total, the city had spent almost $70 million without the construction of the new arena having even begun.
“The only plausible explanation for keeping the purchase agreement confidential since all of the reviews and approvals required in the agreement were achieved before the end of August was to shield it from the public while the so-called engagement was happening.”
Then we found out that city leaders had intentionally used inflated numbers to make other sites look like bad places for a new arena.
Why would anyone be worried when these clowns are running the show?