The talk around a potential new arena to replace the fabled Saddledome has picked up in recent weeks. The Flames brass lead by Ken King and Brian Burke, are of course starting to get the PR wheels churning in support of City and Province to pony up support for a new NHL arena.
Calgary has among the oldest NHL rinks in the league, yet boasts among the highest consistent attendance. The question of whether this private enterprise (The Calgary Flames group) should receive any form of public dollar support to build their team a new arena is hotly debated.
Here’s a summary from a recent discussion on Facebook between fans on the issue.
The Flames have the 5th highest seating capacity of all NHL teams, trailing only Montreal, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Since the 2004 Cup run the Flames have been playing in front of capacity crowds almost every night. This is hardly a starving franchise by any measure. Burke’s “NHL economics” argument seems to only serve to pad the bottom line for Flames ownership. Currently, we haven’t heard from how much money the Flames are bringing to the table.
The pros? According to the Flames, apart from the benefit of their teams, namely the Flames, the additional concerts that skip town because of the constraints in the Saddledome, is a reason to upgrade.
The cons? What is a Calgary Flames problem shouldn’t be a taxpayer problem. With no mention of potential costs and how much the owners would pay, people will assume the ownership group could pay for the whole thing themselves, but want some kind of subsidy or tax break to do it.
Subsidizing millionaire hockey players/owners is not any different than subsidizing millionaire musicians. Public money shouldn’t be in the equation. So that nicks that maybe two concerts a year that don’t come to the city.
But apart from the odd additional concert what benefit does the city get? The Flames are already here. You can make an economic impact argument, but the biggest economic bang happens when you bring a new team to a city where they never existed before. That makes a new and (hopefully) lasting impact. The Flames are already here, so the economic uptick is going to be far lower than if a new pro franchise were moving here. This becomes a hard sell because any way you slice it, the Flames get the better end of the bargain.
Of course, if the Flames left they would lose significantly more than what contribution to a new arena might be.
The proposed locations may end up having a positive impact on the immediate neighborhood. The addition of new business and residential development around the area the stadium would be may increase City tax revenue.
What seems to be the expected course of action from the City will be expediting the building process along indirectly. Land, infrastructure, fast tracking and relaxation of permitting and zoning, remediation of the contaminated land, etc. Those we asked seemed to have little appetite for taxpayer funding directly.
Consider this: if the taxpayer puts even a dime into this building, do ticket prices go up, down, or stay the same? I’m guessing they will be going up. If we are paying for it, then there should be a break in price for the taxpayer!
Not going to happen.
Ultimately, the entire risk/reward ratio with a new arena is so far out of line that throwing taxpayer dollars at it is just absurd.
What’s your take?