Monday, June 30, 2008

CFL working the government

The "economic development" angle that defends sports stadium subsidies is mostly mythical, according to a raft of academic studies. Even so, Canadian Football League Commissioner Marc Cohon told TSN's Brian Wililams, he has convinced many governments to fund CFL stadiums. He says he has lobbied Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and David Asper, who wants governments to help him build a new home for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, despite protests.

Recently, the public had its first indication of dollar totals to expand Mosaic Stadium in Regina: $50 million. Plans would increase seating from 28,800 to 32,000.

"It's a dear old stadium, we love the stadium, but it needs more," said [Roughriders VP of sales and marketing, Steve] Mazurak. "So I would absolutely have to say if we want to reach the next level we need major stadium enhancements and I would say that tune would be at a minimum of $50 million and upwards to get where we want to be."
That's only one small part of the potential costs of this nationwide affair. Consider...

B.C.: $150 million from the province to renew B.C. Place stadium and install a retractable roof.

Calgary: Nothing new, though McMahon Stadium was named in a November 2006 list of various facilities to get $320 million from the province. Luxury boxes in 2005 and field turf in 2006 are some of the latest renovations.

Saskatchewan: potentially $50 million, as mentioned. Negotiations continue between the Roughriders and the City of Regina. The City has already committed $2 million towards what a city report says are $5.8 million necessary for upgrades. The province already forgave $2.8 million of Roughrider debt in 2005.

Winnipeg: **July 3 UPDATE** A proposed new stadium calls for $25 million from the province, $15 million from the federal government, and $100M to $150 million from the City of Winnipeg. David Asper would contribute $350 million to the project. Regardless, the Bombers' current home, Canad Inns Stadium, has an entire end zone without seating currently used for a practice field. Click here for more info and pictures.

Hamilton: Premier McGuinty is supportive of a bid for the 2015 Pan-Am games to be held in Hamilton. This would mean a new 30,000 seat stadium to replace Ivor Wynne Stadium, home of the Tiger Cats. It would also mean expanded facilities at McMaster University. The cost to host the Pan Am Games would be $2 billion, with $1.4 billion coming from federal and provincial governments.

Ottawa: Frank Claire Stadium has fallen into some disrepair since the football team was last there (another proof most CFL stadiums are about football and little else). A stadium renewal is forthcoming.

Montreal: The Alouettes' current home, Percival Molson Stadium, will have its 5,000 seat, $27 million expansion completed by 2009. The Als still play the occasional game at their former home Olympic Stadium. The "Big-Owe" was built for $770 million in 1976, it wasn't paid off until 2006. Further repairs, renovations, and interest left the total cost at $1.47 billion.

Toronto: And, speaking of past bungles...Skydome, home of the Argonauts was built in 1989 for $500 million, with $30 million each from the province and the City of Toronto. Sportsco International LP bought it out of bankruptcy in 1998. In 2005, Rogers, owner of the Blue Jays, bought SkyDome for a mere $25 million.

Expansion cities: The league has its sights set on a tenth team after Ottawa takes to the turf again in 2009. Halifax and Quebec City are frontrunners. Halifax's bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games called for a $121 million stadium with permanent seating for 25,000.

And a bizarre federal footnote to the Canada-Funded League: in mid-June, Senator Larry Campbell introduced Bill S238 to ban the NFL from coming to Canada. Is all this worth our time and money?

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