Flames CEO reportedly seeking arena plus CFL stadium, plus amateur fieldhouse to throw public a bone

Calgary Flames CEO Ken King has been promising to come out with a new arena plan for months now, and this week … he still didn’t actually come out with anything concrete, but the Calgary Herald leaked a bunch of news that it claims it has “learned” about the project, apparently from the ether, because it didn’t cite a source, not even “according to a source.” According to the Herald, King wants to:

  • Build a Flames hockey arena, a CFL stadium for the Stampeders (which King also owns), and an amateur sports fieldhouse for track meets, indoor soccer, and stuff like that.
  • Pay for the more than half-billion-dollar cost by, okay, they didn’t explain that part. But King told a radio show last month that “we’re not going to sneak in here and steal money from the city,” and he wouldn’t lie on the radio, would he?

There are a couple of clues here to how King could end up asking for subsidies while claiming he’s not asking for subsidied: The amateur fieldhouse could count as a “public benefit” of the project and thus something worthy of city dollars, the city could be asked to kick in free land, and in general big complicated projects are way easier to hide money in than small simple ones. The big question now is how Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who has previously told King in no uncertain words that he’s not going to hand over money for nothing, and the city council respond once King actually releases his plan. He says “in a couple of weeks,” but he said much the same thing in November, so maybe somebody should ask him which couple of weeks.

New Winnipeg stadium leaky, city sues builder to pay for fixes

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the new $208 million football stadium that Manitoba is building for the municipally owned Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team. How’s that going, guys?

Triple B Stadium Inc., the consortium that owns IGF and funded the construction of the 33,500-seat facility at the University of Manitoba, has filed a lawsuit against construction company Stuart Olson and architect Ray Wan.

The lawsuit argues the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers is riddled with problems that will take millions of dollars to fix.

Oh, dear.

The minister said part of the reason the province chose not to put money into the old Canad Inns Stadium near Polo Park was because putting the required $50 million into it would have been “pouring that money down the toilet.”…

“Do I think that this is still a great stadium? Yeh, I do. But we want it here for 50 or 60 or 70 years. And the problems that have been identified and what Triple B is looking at is that the construction, we may not get that 50 years out of it and it’ll just start to crumble a lot earlier and so these problems need to be taken care of.”

Oh, dear oh dear.

Basically, the new stadium will be safe, but the charges are that the builders mucked up the waterproofing, which will cause the building to sustain more damage over time. One hopes that the suit will be settled in a way that will allow for repairs to be made that will keep this building around for 50 years or more — wow, people talking about a stadium lasting 50 years, that takes me back — but in the meantime, I guess at least Manitobans can be glad that they can play football in it at all.

Guy running umpteenth in mayoral race threatens to lure Argonauts to Mississauga with new stadium

How to get media attention for your longshot mayoral campaign: Threaten to lure the local sports team to your suburb via force of your will (and a new stadium, which will also be build with the force of your will).

“Toronto, which is saturated with sports franchises, has failed the team,” Dill Muhammad told the Toronto Sun Monday. “If the Argos move to Mississauga, they will thrive. Under my leadership, we could build them a stadium they will be proud of.”…

In addition to a 25,000-seat stadium, the 75-year-old businessman envisions a “destination facility” with 200 retail stores, an arcade and a gaming zone.

“The stadium will be a great resource to attract international soccer, rugby and cricket competitions as well as track-and-field events, the Metro Bowl football championship, music concerts and festivals and religious events,” Muhammad said.

Today’s lesson, kids: With your name on the ballot, a video, and a dream, you too can get your crazy ideas into the local newspaper! You still may not be able to get them to spell your name right, however.

Toronto okays $10m in city funds for soccer stadium expansion

Toronto F.C. won the first round in its quest for public money to expand BMO Field from 21,000 to 30,000 seats, as the Toronto city council’s executive committee voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to kick in $10 million toward the $120 million project. The city money would supposedly be repaid by added parking revenues from the expanded stadium, though if SBNation’s Toronto F.C. blog is correct, this is just a projection, not a guarantee.

In any event, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the soccer team and is perpetually rumored to be interested in luring the Argonauts CFL franchise as well, still needs to get $10 million apiece from the province of Ontario and the Canadian federal government, neither of which is nearly as sure a thing as the Toronto money.

You can read more of the Toronto agreement here, though it doesn’t actually spell out all that much, and is of course completely mum on the provincial and federal funds, or on how (or whether) they’d be repaid at all. There’s still a long way to go for this project — and, since this is Canada, it’s an extra ten yards farther.

Toronto considering soccer field expansion, still mum on funding details

Toronto city councillor (and Exhibition Place chair, because that’s how they roll in Canada) Mark Grimes tells the Toronto Sun that Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns Toronto F.C. in addition the Maple Leafs, is “getting close” to a deal to expand BMO Field for both the soccer team and possibly the CFL Argonauts, who currently play at whatever SkyDome is called these days. As for what the deal would look like, though, it’s about as vague as when MLSE first discussed it last month, with Grimes saying only, “It is going to cost us money to expand, there is a portion that we would pay that we’d be guaranteed back.” (Eeeagh, comma splice!)

The big question remains whether “guaranteed back” means actual revenue to the city to repay the money it would be fronting, or some bogus “repayment” involving taxes the teams would have to be paying anyway. It would be really, really nice if someone with better access to the principals involved — I don’t know, maybe some Toronto newspaper named after Earth’s nearest star? — would ask these kinds of questions at some point, but I guess there’s only so much one can ask, even of Canada.


Vancouver stadium reno cost many times initial estimates (but you knew that)

Business Vancouver has an “exclusive” today that the renovation of the B.C. Lions‘ and Vancouver Whitecaps‘ B.C. Place, which cost $514 million, was originally projected to cost less than one-fifth that amount:

“In order for BC Place to remain over the long term, major improvements and upgrading are necessary,” wrote PavCo’s then-chairman David Podmore in a confidential January 2008 letter to Vancouver’s city manager Judy Rogers. “The scope of the rehabilitation project is in the order of $100 million, which includes replacement of the roof.”

That’s pretty remarkable … except for the fact that British Columbia legislative assemblymember Rob Fleming already said that the project was originally supposed to cost only $60 million, circa 2006. So having $100 million in writing as the target figure is interesting, but not exactly groundbreaking news.

The really interesting part, meanwhile, would be about how the hell the construction cost soared so much — they only put on a retractable roof and added some suites and stuff, while spending almost as much as the cost of an entirely new stadium. About that, Business Vancouver has nothing much to say. There was a $25 million cost overrun with installing the steel cables that hold up the roof— contractor Marc Dutil called the complexity of the cable system “mind-boggling” and said, “You can look at a 3-D animation, a picture on the Web, and then you step inside and look at it and you think ‘Oh my God'” — but the construction companies say they absorbed that. Of course, given that the contract for installing the cables for the roof alone ended up at $125 million, you have to think there was some lowballing going on in those initial $60 million and $100 million price tags; anything to get people onto the lot.

Dolphins, Argonauts: We need new stadiums because our old ones are too roomy

Yesterday was the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup, and I bet most of my non-Canadian readers couldn’t tell you what the score was, what teams played in it, or how many yards long the field was. (They might have heard that Justin Bieber got booed lustily at halftime, though.) But anyway, championship games aren’t really about winners and losers, they’re about media opportunities for league commissioners to stump for new stadiums:

The Toronto Argonauts need to have their own, smaller stadium in the long term, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon said Friday as he fielded questions following his annual state of the union address.

“They want to make the Rogers Centre work and you will see on Sunday when that stadium is full that it’s exciting,” Cohon said. “But I think long term, when you look at the size of the new Tiger-Cats stadium and the size of the new stadium in Ottawa, all around 24,000 seats, that’s perfect for CFL football.

“I think a long-term plan should incorporate a strategy around potentially a new stadium in the Toronto region.”

The Rogers Centre (née Skydome) was, of course, built at huge public expense in part to serve as the home of the Argonauts, which is why it has that old-school circular shape and artificial turf. Any prospect of a new Argos stadium is a long way off just yet, but if it picks up steam, you have to wonder if the Blue Jays owners will begin agitating for a baseball-only facility as well. In fact, really shouldn’t every sports team have one stadium for well-attended games, and a smaller one for games where tickets are hard to come by? It’s been done before.

And the Argonauts aren’t the only ones complaining that their stadium is too plus-sized:

Completed in 1987 as team founder Joe Robbie’s answer to the decaying Orange Bowl, the Dolphins’ home is now the 10th-oldest stadium in the NFL. It has few eye-popping features to compete with the home-viewing experience and, with a capacity of 75,540, it’s too big for the club’s dwindling number of season-ticket holders…

The stadium has seen more than $300 million in improvements in the past 7 1/2 years – primarily in upgrades to the club and suite levels and the high-definition scoreboards – but attendance remains disappointing and the low-tech facility doesn’t give Super Bowl bids much punch.

“We’ve got a 25-year-old facility, and it clearly needs some tender loving care,” Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said. “This facility, in its current form, is not going to serve the anchor tenants for the long-term. We’re going to be in a competitive environment with a lot of facilities that have been built in the last 10 years. Clearly, it’s something that’s going to have to be addressed at some point.”

So, to recap: The Dolphins need a new stadium in order to draw more fans, and also to accommodate fewer fans, and also because it’s 25 years old, except for the parts that were just upgraded. Maybe they should go back to complaining that they built the seating bowl all wrong, and won’t someone please fix it for them?

Ottawa gets new CFL team! Cost: $196m and public land

The Ottawa city council has finally voted to approve the Frank Clair Stadium reconstruction plan that has been kicking around in litigation for more than two years, and got its reward: The CFL announced that it plans to give Ottawa an expansion team starting in 2014, bringing football back to Canada’s capital for the first time since 2006, when the Renegades folded thanks to massive disinterest.

The estimated public cost is currently at $196 million, plus the use of public parkland for the housing and retail that developer Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is insisting on getting to build if it’s going to redo the stadium. With public money. But at least it’ll have lots of computer-generated trees, ghostly skyscrapers, and lite jazz!

Regina signs MOU to stick public with most of Roughriders stadium cost

The city of Regina has filled in the missing $138 million in its $278 million Saskatchewan Roughriders stadium plan, signing a memorandum of understanding to build the stadium by 2017. The new funding plan:

  • The previously announced $80 million grant from the province of Saskatchewan.
  • $73 million in cash from Regina, up from the previously announced $60 million.
  • A $100 million provincial loan from the city, to be paid back by a $12 per ticket fee on all events at the new stadium.
  • $25 million from the Roughriders.

That means that the public would be on the hook for more than 50% of the stadium cost, plus taking on the risk on that $100 million if ticket sales fall short of projections. Plus paying $230 million in operating costs on the stadium over the next 30 years. Most of this would be paid off from property tax revenues, though there’s also an $80 million chunk that’s summed up merely as “other revenue.”

The plan still needs to be signed off on by the Regina city council.

Saskatchewan offers $80m toward $278m Roughriders stadium

The province of Saskatchewan has promised to spend $80 million on a new Roughriders stadium, which sounds more momentous until you realize that a new stadium is expected to cost $278 million. (It was going to be $431 million with a roof, but apparently now the plan is to make it “roof-ready” and let somebody else worry about that bit.) The city of Regina has offered to put in $60 million, which leaves the plan about 50% funded, and 50% wishful thinking.

The province did offer to extend loans to the city for the some of the remainder, but that would just make it the city’s problem how to pay back the loans. Given that the Roughriders are owners by a Green Bay Packers-style community partnership, there’s no deep-pocketed owner to make up the difference, but it’s always possible the team could decide it’s worth paying increased rent to cover the public costs, in order to get a new stadium. Given past history, probably not, though.