Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Stadium Saga Continues

While I realize that the decision to spend hundreds of million dollars on the construction of a new stadium is not something that lends itself to a quick decision, I think we are getting to the point where it’s starting to get ridiculous and its time to shit or get off the pot. Each week/month seems to bring another twist and usually another delay in a final decision. Fortunately this week’s news is a positive twist.

This whole stadium thing has really been an amazing storyline to follow. I mean if we rewind just 15 years ago, our province was poorer than a hobo and even if we had the money people would likely have voted strongly against a new facility for the team to embarrass themselves at… would have likely gotten more support for a bulk purchase of paper bags to cover our faces. 

Then 2007 rolls along… the province suddenly has more money than they know what to do with thanks to the potash boom and a Grey Cup victory boosts support for the Riders to unprecedented levels.  What better way to use up some of the money that is overflowing the provincial coffers than to build a new state of the art facility for everyone’s favourite team.

But even though Brad Wall could have likely paid straight cash for the stadium at the time this is government and there is process to follow. First we had to conduct a study to see if a new stadium was even the best option. Then once we determined that a new domed stadium was indeed the best option, we had to conduct a feasibility study to see if said stadium made financial sense. Which it did. That was followed by a viability study, a possibility study and disability study just to be safe.

Then excitement was at a fever pitch. We had a location, we had blueprints, we had buy in from the province and the city, we had… an untimely global economic meltdown that abruptly put the stadium plans on hold. Thank you very much unregulated American banking industry.
But all hope was not lost. The government remained committed to pursuing the project. The problem was how to pay for it. Or rather how to come up with an explanation of how it would be funded that would appease the public. 

Then out of nowhere along come the Seminoles with their wacky $1.2 billion dollar stadium/casino plan that was announced, immediately denied by the Seminoles who subsequently remembered that “oh yeah, we did have that billion dollar plan in the works. Must have slipped my mind when you first asked.” That provided some entertainment but ultimately went nowhere (which was likely for the best).  

 Then there was more nothingness.

Then in September news comes out that the Provincial Government had reached a deal to conditionally purchase the CP rail yards where the proposed stadium would be built, “just in case”. Riiiggghhht “just in case” wink, wink. You see unlike those idiots in Hamilton who had the federal government going out of their way to give them money to build a new stadium if they could just pick a place for it, we had a place that everyone agreed on but no federal money.
Then there was more nothingness. Until the Federal Government came out and made it clear they wouldn’t be giving any public $ to sports stadiums which included us and Quebec who wants a new hockey rink for an NHL team they don’t yet have. I guess they are going on the “If you build it they will come” philosophy. 

However this week optimism over a new stadium here was given a massive boost when the Feds indicated that they might be willing to bend the rules somewhat and fund stadiums through the P3 fund using Regina as the guinea pig. Basically the Feds had set aside a billion dollars in this fund a couple years ago to spend on big projects that were done with private-public partnerships. 

Now this development is somewhat of a head scratcher for me. We have been practically begging the Feds for money for close to 2 years now and they have repeatedly said they don’t have any. Then Brad Wall asks “well what about that unspent billion dollars you have sitting over there?” and the Feds are all of the sudden like “Oh that? Must have slipped my mind when you first asked.” First the Seminoles now the Feds, why do we keep running into people who “forget” about a billion dollars?

Now as much as it looks like the feds are doing something nice for Saskatchewan, this really has nothing to do with us. You see Saskatchewan is small and has so few voters there is little for a political party to gain by doing us favours. Quebec by contrast is full of people and full of potential seats for the Conservatives to gain in the next election. A new hockey arena for French people to go watch imagination NHL games might be a good way to gain some support. Problem for the Feds is they can’t say no to us and our real sports team and then turn around and say yes to Quebec and their imaginary one. So by default (the 2 sweetest words in the English language) the feds need to help us out too. This may be the first documented case of the French coming to someone else’s aid. Though admittedly in this case it was more by coincidence than concerted effort.

Regardless of how it came about, it’s fantastic news! Odds look good that the Feds will be giving us $100 million towards the project. When you toss in the money that the private sector is willing to pony up along with the city and the Riders all that is left is for the province to announce that the project is going ahead and concoct a way to make it appear that no tax payers $ are going to the project even though they clearly will be. 

We are told a decision on the matter will be made by the end of February but then again I’ve heard this before so who knows when they will get around to it. For now I will sit her full of optimism and wait for the next group to come along who explicably “forgets” about a billion dollars.

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