As required by Saskatchewan law, I’m a lifelong fan of the Roughriders. But I’m not a diehard ultra-fan.
I get to a game every once in awhile (less since we had Pace) but don’t own season tickets. I have a t-shirt and ball cap with the Rider logo (and now a jersey) but don’t get kitted out in green face paint and hair dye right down to Riders sock and under-roos for every game. I tend to pay more attention when the team’s doing well then when they’re not. I played football in high school but still wouldn’t claim to undertand the minutia of all the rules.
I suspect I’m like a lot of Saskatchewan residents in all of those regards. Which I think gives me the ability to give a fairly balanced analysis of the big announcement before the game by my old friend Premier Brad Wall, Mayor Fiacco and other dignitaries that they are planning to begin work on a $278 million “roof ready” stadium in 2013 with completion scheduled for 2017 and which will be located a few blocks from the current location on a city-owned exhibition grounds after the original plan to put a new stadium downtown on a former CP rail grounds fell through.
The funding breakdown announced yesterday is this:
$80 million – Province of Saskatchewan
$73 million – City of Regina
$100 million – City of Regina (via a low-interest loan from the province that will be covered by an added $12 per ticket fee for Taylor field events, an increase from the current $8 fee although not clear if that means the new fee will be $12 or go up by $12 to $20/ticket total.)
$25 million – Roughriders (mostly via naming rights and other sponsorships)
A new stadium is something that’s been bubbling around Saskatchewan for a long time and I’ve got to be honest – again, probably like many Saskatchewan residents, I have pretty mixed feelings about this project.
As a fan of the Riders, as someone who thinks a stadium can help with economic activity (though I’ve seen studies that both say this is the case and that it isn’t), that it helps build civic pride, knowing that the current stadium is the oldest (?) in Canada, it’s a good thing.
But as someone who sees many other social issues requiring urgent attention, as someone who’s very disappointed that our film industry is basically being killed over $8 million dollars (“Corner Gas” is arguably as much of a Saskatchewan institution outside our borders as the Riders and as someone who looks at a province of just over one million people and a city of two hundred thousand, I’m not sure the prospect of thirty plus years of debt are worth it.)
Let’s summarize (these points are by no means exhaustive):
- The Riders need a new stadium
- It’s a good time to build during economic boom times
- the stadium will be a point of civic pride. (although I’m not sure about provincial pride – I know I’d be less on the fence if I lived in Saskatoon or anywhere outside of an easy drive’s distance to Regina)
- there are HUGE social problems and infrastructure needs in our city and across our province right now that will not see any improvement (barring communities winning cash on quasi-reality shows) because of this announcement.
- the amount of money being spent on something which will directly benefit only the 300 000 or so who attend Rider games each year (okay, plus maybe a few concerts and other special events) is enormous. To put it another way, watching a football game at home on the couch is going to look pretty much the same whether it’s in a sparkling new stadium or in the current digs.
- the numbers are based on selling out games and getting the full amount of facility fees every game every year for thirty years. But if the team starts to falter, sell-outs aren’t guaranteed. Even the slight price increase may be enough to price games out of the market for some people.
- as I mentioned above, it seems like really skewed priorities to essentially gut our film industry over $8 million but put 30x that amount into a stadium.
- many mega-projects end up in mega cost over-runs (I think the much smaller creation of the Regina Downtown Plaza was over by a few million – maybe even double the initial budget?)
- I find it troubling that right now, basically the entire shot for this project is being paid by public money with nothing from the private sector.
- as I said, I’ve seen studies on each side of the argument as to whether new stadiums are good for local economies so I’ll withhold judgement about whether this is a good or bad thing. (I do wish that if we did have to have a new stadium, it was downtown. I know that makes parking worse but I liked going to the Saddledome in Calgary for that reason.)
- if Brad Wall can politicize the Riders, can someone ask Brent Butt and the cast of Corner Gas to do anti-Sask Party ads in 2015? Perhaps a parody commercial where the cast announces a Corner Gas reunion movie will be shot in Winkler, Manitoba?
- my own little personal bias is that Regina Public Library is also currently located in a badly-outdated facility with a board working to get funding for a new building. I’m sure the province will be extremely forthcoming as they’ll easily recognize that libraries have more impact on a society’s health and ongoing development than stadiums do.
Ultimately, what this project will do is close an out-dated by still operational 33 000 seat, open-air stadium and move it a few blocks west to a new location where there will be a 33, 000 seat, open-air stadium. For slightly better sightlines, a nicer concourse and shorter lines in the cans, that’s a lot of money to spend!
I’m trying hard not to let my personal politics bleed into this as I think this isn’t a right-left issue. But I do find it ironic that the NDP are always painted as the “tax and spend” party and the low-tax Sask Party and low-tax advocates at Regina City hall are putting one new tax on all Saskatchewan residents (the province’s portion), two new taxes on all Regina residents (province & city portion) and three new taxes on all Rider season ticket holders (province and city portion plus the increased facility fee). There’s also a possibility that this could backfire on the Sask Party in the 2015 election depending on how the project goes and where we’re at with the economy and other pressing issues.
And on that last point, it’s not cheap to go to a Riders game as it is. It was nearly $200 for three of us to go yesterday and yes, I’m sure people who go more regularly, don’t necessarily buy $5 hot dogs, a few $6 beers, programs and other souvenirs. But even if you only buy the tickets, it’s pricey and about to get pricier – as I said above, perhaps pricing a lot of people out of the market?
Anyhow, to end on a happier note, here’s some shots of Pace beginning his own Rider fandom…