Saskatoon city officials have been talking about building a new downtown arena for years now, and for years now I’ve been relegating it to the small bullet points in Friday roundups, because it’s such an amorphous plan (the dollar figures have wavered between $175 million and $375 million) and because Saskatoon’s arena doesn’t even have a major pro sports team playing there, just the Blades (junior hockey) and Rush (lacrosse) and Rattlers (minor-league basketball). But that all ends today, and not just because Global News chose the report on this with the irresistible headline “Saskatoon city councillors want fewer homicides, new arena in 2020.”
No, the real kicker is this:
[Saskatoon councillor Randy] Donauer compared the SaskTel Centre to a used car, saying a responsible steward needs to plan for its replacement. He also said that concert promoters had told council that the SaskTel Centre is missing amenities which would keep attracting A-list talent to the city.
He said local businesses would lose out on “millions” of dollars if entertainers went to another venue in another city.
First off: Used cars have lots of moving parts that tend to break, while stadiums are mostly steel that can last effectively forever if protected from corrosion, so this is a terrible, terrible analogy. But more importantly, here we have an elected official saying, presumably with a straight face (Global News didn’t include video of Donauer’s comments), that his city needs to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new arena because otherwise local businesses would lose millions of dollars if Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand kept on skipping stopping in Saskatoon.
I am not an expert on Canadian finance, but I’m pretty sure hundreds of millions of Canadian dollars are still hundreds of times more than millions of Canadian dollars, so, you know, even if you see the main job of city governments is to prop up local businesses’ profits, maybe there would be cheaper ways to help Saskatoon businesses than building a whole new arena? Maybe?
Right now it looks like the Saskatoon council is only going to work on identifying a site for an arena in 2020, with any actual money to be allocated down the road, possibly because the city is already almost at its debt limit. So there’s still a long ways to go before anything gets decided, which will hopefully give Donauer a bit more time to learn about how money works.