Regina mayor admits city losing money on CFL stadium, but mumble “spinoffs” something

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere is trying so hard to explain why the city and province spending $153 million on a new stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders (plus another $120 million or so to operate it for the next 30 years) was a good idea, without actually lying about the fact. Just listen to the poor guy:

“When you model and talk about what is a return, what’s the investment and what is the economic potential of the stadium, we’re not going to make money on this one.”

That’s honest! So why are you still arguing for this deal, even though it was arranged before you took office in 2012?

Fougere says the return on taxpayer money spent for the new Mosaic Stadium is “not strictly an economic return in the sense that you have a return on investment in the classical business sense.”

Right, no actual taxpayer money getting repaid, got it. What’s the upside?

Fougere characterizes the stadium as a “public investment” to revitalize the downtown and says there will be spin-offs created as a result.

Spin-offs?

If everything works out, the new stadium, coupled with continued public investment downtown, will draw private interests to the area. Those private interests will build new facilities and, riding a wave of optimism, open new businesses.

“It really is the private sector making that decision, taking that risk, making that development and ultimately deciding what actually goes there. We’ll tell them the kinds of things we want to see in there, but we can’t dictate exactly what goes in there.”

Sooooo… “if everything works out,” putting $153 million into a new football stadium, plus an unspecified amount of money into other downtown development, could lead to private interests opening new businesses that they otherwise wouldn’t have! Not that this has ever worked well before, and besides maybe there could be cheaper and more effective ways to encourage businesses to open downtown, but … private sector! Synergy! Tax base!

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Roughriders are, much like the Green Bay Packers, owned by a public corporation of community shareholders, so it’s at least Regina football fans who are benefiting from the city’s largesse and not some faceless billionaire. No, that’s not much of a silver lining, but take what you can get, okay?


3 comments on “Regina mayor admits city losing money on CFL stadium, but mumble “spinoffs” something

  1. As I recall, the Riders are paying somewhere around $3m per year over 30 years to play there. During the discussion about this project, that sounded a lot like “the Riders are paying $100m, the City is paying $77m and the province is paying the rest”.

    Now that we know (where did the number come from?) that the operating costs will average $4m p/a for the next 30 years, though, that $3m figure doesn’t seem all that generous does it?

    “If you build it for us, we promise we will not pay back any of the construction cost and will pay some of the operating costs”.

    It’s far from the worst deal in sports stadium subsidies, but as more info comes out it does seem to sound worse all the time.

  2. I hate the public subsidizing entertainment but in this case, what was the alternative? 80 year old Taylor Field was literally crumbling and a renovation would have cost almost as much as building new. Like the Packers, there is no private owner so the funding had to primarily come from public sources. The Riders did not have $100 Million to put in. They have had public telethons over the years just to keep the franchise going. The City is getting paid back through the ticket tax which has increased the cost of tickets significantly. I do agree that the spinoff argument the Mayor is presenting is bogus as that money would have been spent in the community anyway.

    • The Riders used to be a financial basketcase in the 1980s/90s (as did much of the league). However, the last ten years or so they are generating staggering amounts of revenue by CFL standards.

      I agree with you on the old Taylor Field aspect… the city was spending (and in some cases the team also) millions every year on major repairs and upgrades – as I understand it considerably more than the new facility will cost in total annual operating costs each year.

      There was no good option in Regina, Hamilton or Winnipeg for the CFL teams. Whether they are high enough priority to warrant public spending or not is a matter for residents and taxpayers to speak on.

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