The University of Ottawa released a study yesterday on the economic impact of the Ottawa Senators on the Ottawa metro area, and you can probably predict what it said, especially if I tell you that it was mostly drawn from figures provided by the team. But, sure, here’s the study’s nut graf:
As reported in Table 2.4, the estimated annual economic impact of SSE on the Ottawa-Gatineau CMA is $204 million (direct and indirect) based on a direct financial impact of an estimated $100 million. An extensive list of intangible benefits for the CMA was also measured and provides evidence of the importance of SSE to the local market.
As in most team-supported economic studies, there’s a lot to question here — for starters, more than half that direct financial impact ($55 million) is supposed to come from spending by visitors from outside the city, but given the team sells around 800,000 tickets a year, 25% of them to out-of-town visitors, that would mean non-Ottawans are averaging $275 in spending apiece on going to hockey games, which seems more than a little steep. Not to mention that it would require all those ticket buyers to be in Ottawa solely to see hockey, which also seems like a reach.
But rather than picking apart this report in detail (you’re welcome to do that yourself; PDF is here), I’m more interested in why on earth it’s being issued now in the first place. The Senators aren’t looking for a new arena or threatening to skip town — their arena is just 18 years old and they own it, so it’s not like they could easily up and leave even if they wanted to. (If the Senators left, their arena operations arm would just be left with a bunch of empty dates to fill.) There was a flurry of complaint from team owner Eugene Melnyk last summer about the city allowing a new casino at a nearby racetrack and not allowing him to build one, so maybe this is part of a late-breaking plan to get his own self one of them casino licenses, too? Or maybe he’s out to get one of those Florida Panthers-style “give us money to subsidize our operations for no real reason other than that we want it” deals? Or maybe, given that the U of Ottawa report says it was delayed because last season’s NHL lockout left it without enough good data, this was just meant as ammunition for last year’s casino fight, but arrived too late to make a difference. Guess we’ll find out soon enough.