Saturday, July 21, 2012

On known unknowns

Others have already weighed in on City Council's rush to lock in a stadium plan before anybody has a chance to ask serious questions about it. But let's take a closer look at what looks to be the most important additional question beyond the ones I already identified here.

Bruce Johnstone's defence of the agreement so far includes an assumption that the Saskatchewan Roughriders will cover $100 million in operating costs through a new lease - which looks to be based on his conflating the money raised from an unrelated facility fee with the terms of the team's lease.

But the City's actual summary of the project (see chart at bottom of this story) leaves any lease with the 'Riders "to be negotiated".  Which means we have no information whatsoever as to what the anchor tenant for a new stadium can or will pay in a lease to use a facility being built primarily for its benefit - leaving the City entirely on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in operating and maintenance expenses.

And that in turn figures to allow the team to reinforce assumptions like these put together by CBC that it won't have to contribute another dime. Indeed, if CBC's breakdown is correct, the 'Riders would siphon off all the benefits of a building designed to maximize the team's revenue, while contributing nothing but its small share of initial construction costs.

Now, I very much hope that won't be how any eventual lease is actually structured. But the fact that nothing on paper suggests otherwise signals that the City has done absolutely nothing to ensure the main beneficiary of a stadium makes a fair contribution to the costs of its administration and maintenance - even while negotiating the terms of construction with that same tenant.

So it's looking like there's more and more reason for residents to speak out against an attempt to lock Regina's citizens into who-knows-what at the behest of a lame-duck Council. If nothing else, it's impossible to make an informed choice without knowing what the 'Riders can and will contribute toward operating costs - and any Council vote based on wilful blindness on that point should be a firing offence.


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