Thursday, April 19, 2007


And The Walls, Come Crumbling Down

Now that the Oilers season is over, the memory of Ryan Smyth has mostly faded, and Pat Laforge is done gouging season-ticket holders, Mayor Stephen Mandel is back on his hobby horse (great potential for an editorial cartoon there, btw, Mike). Brave man, our Mayor. Rexall is obviously so on the verge of collapsing that he couldn't avoid talking about it from, you know, February 27th until now. Of course, the local media still hasn't looked for an opposing opinion on the idea. And look what appeared in today's provincial budget:

A $429 million increase in infrastructure support over the next three years will help communities add, maintain and upgrade key community facilities, including:

• $280 million over two years to establish a Major Community Facilities Program, funded by lotteries, to assist non-profit organizations, municipalities and Aboriginal communities with building, renovating, upgrading or maintaining major community public use facilities for sport, recreation, culture and wellness.

• $80 million for capital grants to support major athletic facilities, fairs and exhibitions.

• Funding to a maximum of $69 million for the province's commitment to provide 25 per cent of the cost of the Calgary Olympic Development Association's proposed $276 million capital renewal project.

I've added a label to as many of our posts on this issue as I could find. Click on the "New Arena" link if you want more information on this issue, as well as some of the major U.S. papers written about sports arenas and "economic revitalization." Maybe someone could pass those papers onto our city councillors, so that they might be better informed on the issue. It's become quite clear that the dailies aren't interested in informing the public on the issue.



I love Depeche Mode.

You mean John Mellencamp?

I prefer the Depeche Mode version, with tumbling walls.


I always planned to keep writing on this one issue, but I did deserve that.


First, full disclosure, I'm on record as saying I don't mind some of my tax dollers going towards arenas.

Second, I think you are reading way too much into these budget lines.

The $280 million for the Major Community Facilities Program is funded by lotteries, not tax dollars. So what's the beef?

Just what % of the $80 million earmarked for Capital Grants do you anticipate being given to Rexall rather than the hundreds (thousands) of other "non-profit organizations, municipalities and aboriginal communities".

Similarly, how much of the $69 million to CODA do you think will go to Saddledome rather than the ski jump, bobsleigh, speed skating oval, etc.

Even if each line was used exclusively for the Rexall and Saddledome, we're talking about, what 20% of the total cost?

Just out of curiosity -- did you stand up against the egregious use of taxpayer dollars for the recent Jubilee Auditorium renovations?

And how is your beloved Folk Fest funded again?

I'd rather the province blow an extra couple hundred million to pay for the souped-up new and improved Museum they promised us a few years back.

Just take the money out of the horse racing subsidies and call it even.

And how is your beloved Folk Fest funded again?

I said it before, but I'll say it again.

In 2005, the Edmonton Arts Council gave $2.766 million to artists and arts organizations. A $125,000 operating grant went to the Folk Fest, which, by the way, is not a for-profit professional sports organization. The Alberta Foundation For The Arts gave $32, 602 to the Folk Fest in 2005/2006. As Avi pointed out in his post, the EIG has been getting substantially more than that every year since 1998, to the tune of at least $4.6 million a year, and probably more.

I guess my question is: what the hell are you talking about?

First, full disclosure, I'm on record as saying I don't mind some of my tax dollers going towards arenas.

Some questions for you:

1) For what reasons do you suport the use of public (not tax, public) dollars for a new Oilers arena?

2) Define "some."

So, in other words, the Edmonton Folk Festival received about 3.5 dollars from taxpayers for every person who attended the festival ($157,602/~45,000 people) and the Edmonton Oilers received about 3.3 dollars from taxpayers for every person who attended an Oilers game (~4.6million/1.38 million).

I guess we could do this forever -- how many taxpayer dollars are given for the Fringe Festival? How many taxpayer dollers are supporting Shell/Syncrude/etc in their Oilsands endeavours? (As a brief aside, any of you who haven't been up to Fort Mac for a tour of the Oil Sands and a visit to the Oil Sands Museum are missing out -- it is awesome and well worth a trip). In short, I think an arena is just as worthy of support as any of the other things we already pay for.

1) For what reasons do you suport the use of public (not tax, public) dollars for a new Oilers arena?

Off the top of my head:

a) I like hockey and the Oilers operating out of Edmonton gives me great pleasure during the long winter months. In short, I belive that the Oilers make Edmonton a better place to live. I can't speak for Winnipegers, but I sure seem to read a lot of pining Jets tributes.

b) I like what having a high profile sports team does for the general disposition of Edmontonians -- well, at least when they are playing well. I don't know about you, but Edmonton was a pretty darn fun place to be living during the Oilers cup run, and I haven't seen too many any other events that have evoked quite the same sense of community. As far as spending money on 'civic pride' events, the Oilers seem to be a better investment than most of the other lame-o events City Hall dreams up.

c) I like sports, and I believe that by having an arena Edmonton will continue to be able to attract such fun events as the National Finals Rodeo, the Brier, The Scott Tournament of Hearts, The Canadian Figure Skating Championships, etc. I would be sad if those non-Oilers events moved elsewhere.

d) Economic benefit. Sure, all of your fancy academic reports show that this is often overestimated; but there are more than a few problems with most of these reports:

The most serious is that they almost universally only look at the "economic benefits" generated by the Major Sports team that plays out of the stadium, while totally ignoring the economic benefits of being able to host other events in the same venue (e.g,. Brier, National Finals Rodeo, etc.). I don't know your experience, but I've found it awfully tough to book a cab during NPR or the Brier (I tend to use cab availability as a relatively decent proxy for "lots of people are visiting from out of town and/or out on the town spending money on booze and food").

The Rappaport and Wilerkerson report, which is so often cited, is particularly bad in this respect. It's as if they believe the stadiums just sit empty when the sports teams aren't playing.

Hey, who knows, maybe that really is the case for Baseball and Football stadiums; but is sure isn't the case for Rexall. Hell, in Edmonton it is the Oilers that are forced to do a horrific roadtrip every year in order to accommodate the Rodeo!

2) Define "some."

Somewhat more than zero and somewhat less than the full cost.

It's pretty much inevitable that public money will be used to build Cal-bla Khan's stately pleasure dome. What I want to know is how big a taste the city will get from the revenue's the new facility generates. If we as taxpayers are on the hook for a significant share of the building costs (and I have no reason to think that figure will be >50% of the total), then the EIG should be kissing their other subsidies goodbye.

The $280 million for the Major Community Facilities Program is funded by lotteries, not tax dollars. So what's the beef?

I really hate this distinction. In many ways, the fact that it's coming from lotteries make the funding worse. Lottery dollars are a voluntary tax on the sick and the stupid.

I think it's perverse that public projects are funded by these dollars.


I'll agree, in part, with your lottery thoughts.

Sure, we can call it a tax to the extent that the gubment is taking money for an unrelated service and applying it elsewhere.

But, hey, at least I know going in that the money taken from my lotto winnings/losings is more than likely going to be used to fund arts & sports. That is a helluva lot more than I can say for my Alberta Health Care premiums, which not only don't go directly towards heath care, but go someplace that I can't figure out via General Revenue.

Frankly, the lotto "tax" seems more directly tied to specific expenditures (Arts/Sports) than most taxes. Hell, the lotto ticket they introduced a few years ago was explicitly designed to raise money for the Flames and Oilers.

As for it being a voluntary tax on the sick and stupid . .

1) It is voluntary
2) I occassionally play the lotto. sports select, blackjack, etc., for entertainment purposes, and I'm not convinced this makes me sick or stupid.

I guess the fair question to Sac would be, if not for a 2,500-seat-larger arena, would all these things go away? The Oilers are already near the top in terms of ticket revenue, and in the top half of general revenue, IIRC. The Brier and Curling Worlds set attendance records. Northlands may be small, but it's not killing anyone yet.

What cheeses me about this isn't so much about taxpayer dollars, lottery money, or whatever. I wouldn't mind seeing my tuition go down for the first time in my life, and the "health care premium" is a disingenuous attempt to hide a tax, but somehow I'm not seeing either of these things changing, if they haven't already. What cheeses me is that Calgary's gonna want one too, and there isn't a fucking thing wrong with the Saddledome, as I've ranted before.

I don't think there is anything wrong with either the Dome or Rexall. I'm happy to wait. All I'm saying is that I'm not opposed to subsidizing arenas as a matter of principle. Or, more accurately, if government is going to subsidize things, I think arenas are as good as anything else and better than lots.

Hockey players who come to Edmonton:

It sucks!

World class musicians who come to Edmonton:

It's a gorgeous city.


Personally, I like the good press for tourist dollars.

Lets just cancel Folk Fest and only give 'em those dollars, so Grabia can be happy.

p.s. Just because something is "not-for-profit" does not make it "publically beneficial." And vice versa.

Why is an Oilers blogger so dead set against a new Oilers arena? How many NHL arenas were paid for by the NHL team owners? Do you think if the money is spent elsewhere you'll have a shorter wait list for MRI's or will have to avoid less potholes?....there are better things to do with your Oilers time than constantly gripe about the group of people responsible for keeping the Oilers in town.....drives me nuts when Players say "it's a business" and no one says a word, but if an Owner of a team makes as much money as his employees he's robbing the ticket need a reality check, not a "retirement"

BTW - Ken King has told the media they are targeting a new building to be under construction in 5-8 years. After the new Stampede casino is built, the Big 4 building will be razed and that is where the new building would supposedly go. KK comissioned a study last year to look at retrofitting the Saddledome or a new building, and a new building was the preferred solution as retrofits on the Dome would be an insane expense. As far as funding goes, the city said they would help with a location (which the Stampede board has now taken care of) but not offered any funds.

Just because something is "not-for-profit" does not make it "publically beneficial." And vice versa.

True, but it's a nil argument.

The Folk-Fest generates tons of good publicity for the City of Edmonton. The windfall from the Arts in Alberta is huge, and leaves the majority of people, performers and tourists with a positive impression of the province and our city.

Sad to say, the EIG and Oilers Management have been successful only in getting a bad a impression of Browntown out into the world and the media.

Why sink money into something that ultimately gives out community a black eye on something that is actually completely unnessecary?

I'm a huge Oilers fan. I grew up on the glory days and suffered through nineties with everyone else, but there are a couple issues here that leave a bad taste in my mouth:

1. The EIG crying poor when it seems numerically impossible for them to be anything but

2. A new Arena in the downtown core to be built using my tax money. I hate paying taxes, and I hate seeing them pissed away on a FOR PROFIT organization.

3. That the EIG OWNS a newspaper that can basically keep slipping the arena idea in and out of the public debate at will.

It's all too shady and backroom and old boys club for me. To even begin comparing it to arts funding is ludicrous. I never saw the Fringe devolve into Stabby Night at the Fire-a-Torium ending in the pulsing beat of batons on shields as the riot police move in and fulfill every cadets' wet dreams of Martial Law.

sacamano is totally right...

the other thing is that a couple hundred million dollars is not whole hell of a lot of the provincial budget in these days of tar sands and multibillion annual surpluses.

I never saw the Fringe devolve into Stabby Night at the Fire-a-Torium ending in the pulsing beat of batons on shields as the riot police move in and fulfill every cadets' wet dreams of Martial Law.

That'll be this year. You can take that to the bank.

So I see that there's a front page Journal story about the new arena today: a battle over the decision.... of which level of government finances it. Nothing, one notes, about whether to not do it at all.

A couple hundred million would make an enormous impact on:

i. education
ii. market diversification
iii. research and development
iv. affordable housing care
vi. the goddam fuckin' potholes that keep screwing the lifespan of my brutalized suspension system!


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