I am having a hard time understanding the opposition to the CalgaryNEXT arena project. It hasn’t helped that Mayor Naheed Nenshi declared the project dead, even before we see how it compares to Plan B in Victoria Park. It also didn’t help that Calgary Flames president and CEO Ken King was taken out of context in a recent interview to a Toronto radio station, where he stated that if the team decided to leave because they couldn’t get a new arena, they’d just leave.
I think I understand what he meant: that they wouldn’t dangle a threat to leave out there as some sort of bargaining chip – like Edmonton Oilers owner Darryl Katz did to secure a deal for Rogers Place. People perceived it as a threat anyway. Now everyone’s got their backs up. I’m already over it.
The key fact remains that Calgary needs a new arena.
Several callers to my show remain opposed, insisting that “their tax dollars” shouldn’t go to subsidize the team. I fail to see why homeowners think they are giving the team a subsidy. There are three parts to financing the project: the field house, the ticket tax and the community revitalization levy.
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The field house is a public project that the city intends to pay for out of public dollars to benefit the public. All the team is talking about is co-locating to get some spin-off benefits. That’s not a subsidy.
A ticket tax is a user fee; it doesn’t come out of general tax revenues. If you don’t want to pay it, don’t go to a game. That’s not a subsidy either.
The Community Revitalization Levy is a tax on the new businesses that would move into the area after the project is built. It is not money that is taken from homeowners to give to the team. If new businesses don’t want their tax revenues going to the project, they don’t have to move into West Village. If you as a patron don’t want your money going to the project, go to a different bar or restaurant. Everybody has a choice here.
For those who say the city should take 100 per cent of West Village tax revenues into general revenue, I say this: if you don’t build an arena and stadium, there won’t be any new hotels, shops and restaurants in the West Village to tax. 100 per cent of nothing is nothing.
To me, there is a clear case for the city to take an interest in getting this built. For one thing, CalgaryNEXT may also be the only hope the city ever has of cleaning up the lands of creosote, rather than leaving it as a toxic dumpsite forever. For another, having professional sports teams with new venues will attract concerts, events, support amateur sport and allow the teams to thrive and continue all the terrific philanthropic work they do through their foundation. The spinoff benefits are huge.
If you think it is just about a hockey team wanting new ice, I think you might be missing the bigger picture; it only makes sense for the city to act as a partner to help make CalgaryNEXT happen.
My interview with Ken King is below: