I’m writing this letter because I want to understand you better. I have a question for you, but first… I want to explain where I’m coming from.
I had a mildly annoying discussion on Twitter the other night about the Calgary arena fiasco. I was annoyed because the person I was talking with seemed (maybe my spidey sense was off) to believe that there was an immediate net economic benefit to publicly-funded stadium projects and for that reason alone it’s a no-brainer. But he couldn’t support that argument.
Around the same time, the Flames said, “we’re no longer looking for a new arena deal with the city” or some such. They’re just gonna keep playing hockey at the Dome and if a better offer comes along from another city, who knows. Winnipeg Jets all over again.
This is politics. Pretty good politics, actually. The Flames are pinning this entire discussion to Nenshi and the current council and it just might work. The mayor isn’t a good friend of the conservative businessman archetype and if you look down the line of Flames ownership and brass, you’ll see one or two who fit that description.
So what’s the plan then? Get Nenshi out in October and the new mayor will be some sort of hero for being willing to sell-out taxpayers on this deal?
There are two things I find interesting about this current stage of the discussion… which has “broken off,” I guess.
1) The boss of a business is speaking from a seat in New York about how Calgarians should do things… and some of us are OK with this? Fair enough, I guess. After all, I spoke from my seat in Calgary for years telling Gary B how to make his All-Star festivities bearable. (It worked! Sort of…)
I think it would be funny if the President of Wal-Mart came to Calgary and said something like: “Our stores are pretty big and we sell a lot of affordable stuff to people in Calgary. We want you to foot the bill for a new Super-Center or we’re just gonna close all our stores and leave town.”
What’s that you say? “But Roger, Wal-Mart is nothing like the Flames! You can’t compare the two!” Yes. I can. And I did. There.
2) This latest development is precisely why Calgarians shouldn’t accept the offer from the Flames. If they ever have another tantrum and pull up stakes, who will be left holding the bag for this arena and associated operating costs? That’s a big slice of land to have nobody paying taxes on. Do we really think the city should open a “department of concerts and RV shows?”
Ok… getting to the question… soon… I promise.
If you go to a bank and ask them to help you build a house or a business or a house for your business, they will present you an offer with repayment terms. In one sentence: “We will give you money and you will pay us back with interest.” That’s typical and has value.
So my question to the strong legion of Calgarians and Flames fans who want the new arena:
IF THE CITY PUTS UP $200,000,000 IN TAXPAYER MONEY, SHOULD THEY OR SHOULD THEY NOT BE REIMBURSED WITH INTEREST?
PS. More to come on the next edition of the National Talky League Podcast