My local NHL team, the Edmonton Oilers, play in the second oldest arena in the NHL, Rexall Place. For the past several years, the team and the mayor have been engaged in an elaborate dance around the issue of a new arena for the Oilers. The big questions are where will it be located and who will pay. Darryl Katz, the owner of the Oilers, said long ago that he would put up $100 million for the new arena and has never budged from this position. Of course $100 million doesn’t buy much of an arena these days, so someone else will have to pay for the rest.
Hmm, lets see, where do wealthy sports team owners in North America go when they need a few hundred million dollars for a new facility? The bond market? Nah, that’s crazy talk. Wait, I’ve got it: get the tax payers to build you a new arena! (Stop me if you have heard this story before.)
The results of a survey announced last week throws a big bucket of cold water on that idea. The survey of Edmontonians, carried out by polling firm Ipsos Reid, finds that 76% of Edmontonians “strongly” or “somewhat strongly” disagree with the statement “The City should provide taxpayers money for a new Hockey Arena.” That’s a sizable majority, and the poll results present a problem for those who want the new arena to be built with public funds.
Of course this won’t be the end of the subsidy bid – just ask taxpayers in Pittsburgh who voted against subsidies for new football and baseball facilities in 1997 only to see them built anyway.
(Hat tip to Andy Grabia at The Battle of Alberta.)