A Calgary Next pro con list

The local sporting team corporation has announced a desire to build a couple of new stadiums. This is not the most surprising thing in the world as one of the stadiums is desperately in need of replacement and horrifically old and the other is about thirty years old and as out of date as my non-functional two year old iPhone. There are some things I like about the proposal though the overall plan has some serious drawbacks.

Here are my thoughts on it in a haphazard pro con format

Pros

  • We need a new football stadium
    • McMahon was my two year old iPhone old when we held the Olympics and is now sadly and non-functionally old. It was a lousy place to watch sports when we had stamps tickets in junior high and I doubt it’s nicer now.
    • The local sporting team corporation doesn’t own the land that McMahon is on. Instead they have an agreement to keep a stadium on that land for a period of time with the University of Calgary. Eventually that agreement will expire and the University will likely want to sell that land to developers. Before it happens they need a new football stadium.
  • We would probably get an MLS team. I am quite disappointed that both Colorado and Salt Lake City have MLS teams and Calgary does not. It’s quite pathetic and we should get one. The field house would be a great new home for an MLS team.
  • The design is pretty cool and the local sports teams do add something to our city.
  • Keeping the stadium downtown is a great move for the city.
  • The site has transit access.

Cons

  • Flooding. There is that awkward thing where the land may flood at some point in the future. Given the damage that the local sporting team corporation had to deal with during the last flood they may wish to rethink the risk associated with this choice. That or a lot of money will have to be spent to prevent flooding in this location. There is a conundrum in Calgary of whether or not it’s worthwhile to continue building along the river. We could stop and leave it as green space except that all of our historic neighbourhoods and our downtown is built around the rivers. Mitigation seems like the only option here. That or we can pretend that nothing bad is going to happen and we’ve forgotten about 2008 and 2013.
  • What of the Greyhound Station? This is probably an afterthought for many but the station is an important part of Calgary’s transportation network. It is centrally located and C-Train accessible. The building is also really cool and has historical value, not that anyone cares about that. Where will the stadium go and what will it mean for the ability of Calgarians to move around? Will our already poor transportation system become poorer?
  • The site is heavily polluted and will require extensive remediation. There is a reason this lovely plot of land right next to downtown is just sitting there. It’s highly polluted and dealing with it will be expensive. My mother worked in the industry and cackled at the huge underestimate in the remediation budget. She says it will probably be at least a billion if not more. So much for all those pretty computer generated condos. There is no mention of how to cover this cost in the budget.
  • I am fervently opposed to government handouts for corporations, especially ones that are doing quite well. The entire budget for the project assumes that the City will just give the local sporting team corporation most of the money for two new stadiums, plus free land that they won’t have to pay property taxes on and then pay to remediate the site — since it’s not in the budget it’s safe to assume that the City will be expected to foot the bill. All this will cost about the same as a new C-Train line (obviously one that’s shorter than the Green Line). I’d much rather have a new C-Train line. Cities have such limited taxation powers in Canada that they really can’t afford to spend that money gifting shiny new stadiums so that sports teams can make piles of money.
    The local sporting team corporation stands to make lots of money off these stadiums and should have to borrow against those future profits in order to fund it. They should have to pay for the interchanges and road upgrades. They should have to pay for the cleanup and flood infrastructure. They should have to pay property taxes on the stadiums. Corporations don’t need government money. They already have loads of their own. These stadiums are not a public good. They are a way for a private corporation to make enormous profits.
    This reminds me of the Stampede whining that the provincial government had cut their grants while charging $18 for the privilege of setting foot on their grounds. Or the struggle that Nenshi has had to get suburban developments to pay the full cost of building new developments. We don’t need to subsidize corporations. That money should go to transit, libraries and affordable housing.
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