It’s so wonderful that the City of Calgary took notice of the truly needy in our society — billionaire sports franchise owners.
The city is currently in the midst of approving the construction of a $550-million facility for the Calgary Flames that will replace the aging Saddledome. The Saddledome is, truthfully, not able to accommodate the needs of a modern NHL franchise and needs to replaced — but the timing and specifics of this situation could not be worse.
The City has agreed to cover half of the cost of the facility, $275-million, at the same time as approving $60-million in cuts to Calgary Transit, City staff and services, including the elimination of an estimated 233 positions, 115 of which are currently employed.
A decision is also being made on whether to put Calgary’s proposed LRT Green Line on pause.
These cuts make a corporate welfare donation to billionaires really hard to swallow for even the most ardent Flames fan.
The wealthy inheritors of taxpayer dollars will argue that there is a net economic benefit for taxpayers due to the future development around a new arena, but evidence for this is somewhat subjective and inconclusive.
What is less inconclusive is the benefit, or lack thereof, a new arena has to a lower to mid income hockey fans who will rarely —if ever — be able to enjoy Calgary’s future hockey Mecca.
Currently, a quick ticket search online shows that tickets to a Calgary Flames game is $51 in the press level. For a family of four, this means the cost of an attending a single game costs at least $200 to sit in the worst seats in the house — not including food, drinks, transit and other costs associated with leaving the house.
For many fans, this simply not a justifiable cost more than once per year — if at all.
A new arena deal will undoubtedly herald increased ticket costs, making fandom even more inaccessible to taxpayers with not enough zeros in their salary.
Simply put, sports owners in Calgary and all over North America are not catering to low-income fans and this alone should make any elected government official pause before signing off on a deal.
But, sports owners in the NHL, NBA, MLB and the NFL have taxpayers and particularly fans over the barrel. They know their teams are beloved by their fans and they know losing a team is a heartbreaking experience for city.
If the city doesn’t build their playground, they will simply flirt with other cities looking to lure professional sports franchises.
It’s a boondoggle with no winners other than the billionaire recipients of taxpayer funds.
But, Calgary will get their arena and, truthfully, fans and the city deserve to have a premier facility for the team they love.
What they don’t deserve is an arena that comes at the cost of vital infrastructure, jobs and services while simultaneously being told it’s a good deal.