Municipal Arena Funding
September 17, 2017
During the campaign, I will be discussing the issues facing Ward 11 residents. The next topic I want to dive into is, the proposal for a new arena.
This past week we’ve seen a lot of debate and rhetoric from all sides on the new arena proposal. Calgary is a culturally vibrant city, from our arts, to music, to film, and of course to our sports– and a new arena will continue to build on that vibrancy. But we can’t let the project play out in public theatre, and most importantly we can’t have Calgarians’ public investment be held hostage.
As a Calgarian, I’m supportive of any projects that grow our cultural economy, and a new arena builds into our reputation as a world class city; the continued revitalization of Victoria Park is something I also welcome. At the same time projects that use public funds need to benefit Calgarians and respect the use of taxpayer dollars.
The proposal released by the City on the three-way ⅓ funding split is a solid framework that a new deal can be built on. The deal respects public investment and is financially responsible on the public versus private investment.
- The Saddledome is an aging arena, and needs upgrades to infrastructure, capacity and aesthetics.
- The level of municipal funding for the project needs to align with the public benefit of the project for Calgarians and the local economy.
- The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) is a private business, that needs to demonstrate financial accountability for a new arena and highlight the use of public investment. The deal needs to be a partnership and a business transaction.
- The arena deal needs to be respective and transparent; Calgarians deserve to know how their public dollars are being spent.
- Get A Deal Done; Transparently – For the last two years the negotiations between the City and CSEC have taken place behind closed doors, and have been plagued by ultimatums, rhetoric and mudslinging. Both parties have a common interest: build a new arena and contribute to Calgary’s cultural economy. But in order for this deal to get done, we need a new forum for discussion and a platform that is transparent to the public. Discussions need to be fair and reasonable – we can’t have either side being held hostage in this debate.
- Clearly demonstrate public benefit – Using public dollars for the new arena needs to be supported by clear public benefit. The project needs to be a partnership between the City and CSEC and Calgarians need to see the benefit of their public investment. An arena is an important part of a vibrant urban centre, but I would push CSEC to demonstrate the full value of the partnership and the return on value to Calgarians on their public investment.
- Risk and Return Must Align – A basic tenet of finance is that there is a relationship between risk and reward. If multiple entities are investing capital into a common project, they share in the rewards or losses. This must be true in the deal for the arena, the City and CSEC should share in the rewards and losses of the venture pro-rata their contributions of capital. A deal that reflects this will be a fair deal for all parties, a market deal.