Should the City of Calgary Subsidize Hundreds of Millions to the Calgary Flames? CalgaryNext, New Arena, Olympics, and more

Should the City of Calgary Subsidize Hundreds of Millions to the Calgary Flames? CalgaryNext, New Arena, Olympics, and more

Yesterday, the Calgary Sun released a piece throwing their support behind sending hundreds of millions of public dollars to the private enterprise Flames organization. Apart from the garbage journalism (that we expect with the Sun), it didn’t do justice to the overall situation of public dollars for billionaire owned sports arenas. Here’s the best piece of read thus far on the topic pertaining to Calgary.

Two years in, and still no critical thought of the new arena project

Some additional Rev. K, chimes in with his thoughts:

 

• First and foremost, the amount of money contributed by the Calgary Flames and the amount to be provided by the public is absolutely out of proportion. The Calgary Flames will contribute $200,000,000 with the public fronting $690,000,000 of the $890,000,000 total. That means taxpayers are providing 77.5% of the total cost and the Flames just 22.5%. At that level of subsidy, Calgary taxpayers should rightfully expect significant outcomes for the community, which CalgaryNEXT absolutely does not provide.

• What about the fieldhouse? The fieldhouse argument is a complete non-starter because in order to get the fieldhouse, the entire $690,000,000 has to be fronted to the Calgary Flames for construction of CalgaryNEXT. The fieldhouse is irrelevant since taxpayers have to put up so much cash to get it anyway. Even if a world-class field house cost half a billion dollars, taxpayers would save money by having the City build it themselves and leaving the Flames out of it entirely.

The public benefit argument assumes the games, (concerts, see next point) are benefitted by all. A library can be enjoyed by all. A ticketed event can only be enjoyed by those who can afford it.

• What about concerts like Garth Brooks? Spending $690,000,000 to bring in even 40 more acts to Calgary each year will still take an impossibly long time to pay off and make that investment worth it. That argument is pennywise and incredibly pound foolish.

• What about the economic benefit? Bars and restaurants and stuff? Here’s the thing about that, the economic benefit of people going to bars and restaurants to watch games and have a good time; that is already happening now. That already happens every season the Flames play. Yes, you may get new locations popping up as part of the CalgaryNEXT development, but you’re getting fringe economic benefit. [Just Google ‘economic benefit of new sports arenas’ for more insight.] Again, spending $690,000,000 to spur those economic benefits will take an impossibly long time to show positive gain.

• One last thought. Everyone loves the term “fiscally responsible”. Many politicians all over Canada and the US call themselves fiscally responsible. Cutting a cheque to the Calgary Flames as soon as they come asking for $690,000,000 without getting a look at their books, without knowing what sort of revenue or naming rights or other tangible economic benefits the City will receive is the exact opposite of fiscal responsibility.

 

CalgaryNEXT approached the city at the end of April, with a plan for a potential Plan B land swap in East Village. The costs decrease, but the Flames are undoutedbly looking for much more in subsidy.

Nobody wants to see the Flames move, and I don’t think it’s really an issue given there are few, if any, alternatives for the franchise. Let’s put it this way, billionaires know how to do one thing for sure–make money. They’ll pressure anybody for the chance at 100s of millions to offset their own costs, yet the beneficiaries of that money will pay the billionaires first. Eventually, someone may have to blink, and let’s not assume there isnt a remote chance the team moves, but that’s the tough choice you have to make between a privately owned corporation, and a team you love.

Just because you love something, doesn’t mean they play by different rules.

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