Monday, February 6, 2017

Say No to Nanaimo's $120 Million Arena Proposal

Something local this time: I posted a shorter version of the following earlier tonight on the "No Event Centre for Nanaimo" Facebook page. After the $20 million expenditure on a cruise ship terminal that's used by four ships a year, and the many millions spent on a conference centre that is barely used and that is a continuing drain on city finances, the last thing the city needs is another downtown white elephant. The referendum to decide this issue is Saturday, March 11.
I've just been reading up on this issue. Some numbers, and some thoughts:

The interest on $80 million over 20 years might well be another $80 million. It's almost certain to be at least $40 million (assuming an average 5% interest rate over two decades). That's a total of at least $120 million, even if interest rates stay low. Plus, there is likely to have to be an annual subsidy. See, for example, the Guelph Storm; Guelph ended up spending $40-50 million some years ago to build an arena that was supposed to generate an annual surplus; instead the city subsidizes it to the tune of over $200,000 annually.

The Clippers have a perfectly good arena that already seats more people than the WHL franchises in Kootenay or Prince George attract (which is fewer than 3,000 a game). But because the WHL has told Nanaimo it would only consider us for a WHL franchise if we build a new arena, it's now proposed that we spend at least $120 million. Imagine what that amount could do to help the city's culture--and sports-- facilities, or the many other good causes in the city that need help.

Frank Crane arena in Beban Park can seat 3,000--but it's never full. Why is it supposed that junior hockey of a very slightly better quality could attract 5,000 fans regularly in the future, when currently junior hockey attracts an average of fewer than 2,000? By comparison with a hockey arena, try this number: even the state-of the art baseball facility in the Portland area (seating 5,000) cost only $15 million. How about a baseball park that would allow for a franchise of that sort (Single A) to compete with the Vancouver Canadians? That would be a great rivalry--and it would cost one eighth of what this attempt to get a WHL franchise would cost. At the very least, Sarauxmen Stadium could use an upgrade. And that would still leave an awful lot left over out of $120 million to help the homeless, help the theatre, help the ballet, help the schools, help the Clippers if they need it. Help build a movie theatre downtown. Help build more small rinks for the average citizen to use. Or extend the trail along the waterfront. There are so many things that would benefit the city and that wouldn't be white elephants!

Why kill the Clippers? They are good hockey franchise with a long history in Nanaimo, and they would surely leave or fold if a WHL franchise came to town.

A copy of "Nanaimo City Updates" arrived at our house today. It seems to me to be a totally disingenuous document; it describes the "events centre" as "a community meeting place catering to all and promoting community wellness," with no mention whatsoever of how the WHL has driven this proposal. The document also assures us that "the proposed events centre ... will be paid for through current revenue streams, causing no property tax increase for residents or property owners." How can they be certain in advance that over the next 20 years this massive, massive expenditure will not cause any tax increases? I may be putting it too mildly when I say "disingenuous."

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