New arena would benefit more than Oilers fans

Go big or go home. If you want public funding for a sports stadium, you’d better be ready to completely soak the government, because otherwise your requests will be ignored.

Go big or go home.

If you want public funding for a sports stadium, you’d better be ready to completely soak the government, because otherwise your requests will be ignored.

Had Edmonton secured a multi-billion dollar event like the World Expo, the construction of a new arena would be a forgone conclusion.

Instead, the provincial and federal governments have both turned their nose up to projects that will ensure the long term viability of the NHL in Alberta.

Premier Ed Stelmach reiterated that point on Wednesday at the Calgary Stampede, while on Thursday he announced $25 million in provincial funding for the Stampede’s centennial next year.

The recent precedent has been set through the Olympics and Pan-Am Games where the three levels of government in both B.C. and Ontario have injected hundreds of millions of dollars into each of those international events. That funding went to many projects from infrastructure to security and, yes, to stadiums and sports facilities used by professional sports teams. In fact the B.C. Lions are still reaping the benefits with a new retractable roof being constructed on B.C. Place. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are also having their home rebuilt.

Edmonton did benefit from this in the 1970s with the Commonwealth Games that yielded a football stadium and Calgary did as well with the Olympics in 1988, getting the Saddledome.

All of these projects have benefitted private entities.

Now Edmonton and Calgary are bellying up to the trough again.

With Rexall Place in the capital in desperate need of replacement and the Flames’ home just a few years away from the same state, their owners are looking for help in replacing these facilities.

In the case of Darryl Katz and the Oilers, they aren’t looking for the whole project to be publicly financed and then handed over, in fact Katz has pledged $250 million directly to the building of the new rink and another $100 million to the development of the surrounding area. The City of Edmonton has ponied up with $100 million as well, on the condition that either the province or Ottawa comes up with the other $100 million.

And yes, Katz is looking for full control over the building, but that would also mean the Oilers will be picking up the tab for any future renovations and operating costs. They are one of the few teams in the NHL who do not control the facility in which they play — and that includes the Flames who do.

It is easy to paint this as building a sand box for millionaires to play in, but it goes far beyond that.

The arena would be at the centrepiece of Edmonton’s downtown revitalization, a project that is long overdue.

The arena would also benefit Albertans from Red Deer north.

In addition, the project serves more than just professional hockey fans.

Like Rexall, it would be a 365-days-a-year building, and ensure the city remains a destination for trade shows, major concerts, the CFR and other major events like the world junior hockey championship, the Brier and the world figure skating championship. It would also become home to the WHL’s Oil Kings and the National Lacrosse League’s Edmonton Rush.

Both sides have studies about how it will effect the city’s economy or how those studies are inaccurate.

What a new building does though, is it keeps Edmonton on the map.

It gives central and northern Albertans something to rally around and be proud of, as well as an ongoing place of high-level entertainment.

I also have a feeling if this was regarded as more of an arts venture there would be far less squabbling over it — as projects like the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Royal Alberta Museum have received millions in funding the last few years for renovations and building projects.

We sometimes forget the role that sports — whether they are professional or amateur — play in our culture.

Is it cheap? Absolutely not.

Does it guarantee an economic boom? Completely debatable.

Should we expect the tax payers to shoulder the entire burden and risk associated a building like this? No, but we shouldn’t expect Katz to either, especially when the benefits extend to an entire region and beyond the realm of professional sports.

The one thing it would guarantee is a home for the Oilers, a place where dreams of young people will be fostered and a future for many high-profile events in Edmonton.

All the same things the Olympics and Pan-Am Games promised for their hosts — but at a fraction of the cost.

jaldrich@bprda.wpengine.com

Twitter.com/Ridingthepine03

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

House sales remain hot in central Alberta with first-quarter sales nearly double last year’s numbers. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Central Alberta real estate market hot in 2021

Residential sales nearly double 2020 in first quarter

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer gave an update on Olymel's COVID-19 situation on Wednesday. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Veer addresses rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

Red Deer has added nearly 200 cases of active COVID-19 cases in past week

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
RCMP investigate culturally insensitive graffiti at Sylvan Lake school

Sylvan Lake RCMP is investigating a vandalism incident. On April 17 around… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd battalion, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown and shown in this 2007 handout photo taken in Panjwai district in between patrol base Wilson and Masum Ghar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Trev Bungay MANDATORY CREDIT
Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

Desmond inquiry: Veterans Affairs submits internal review after initial refusal

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2021 file photo State representatives gather at the Capitol, in Phoenix. Two years after Arizona lawmakers repealed a law barring any instruction on HIV or AIDS that that "promotes a homosexual lifestyle," they are close to enacting a broad remake of the state's sex education laws with a particular focus on LGBTQ issues. (AP Photo/Matt York,File)
Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Arizona governor vetoes strict sex education legislation

Most Read