are probably a lot of people, including many NDP supporters,
who would like to hear a clear statement from Carole James,
or even from one of the NDP critics, that it is wrong to spend
over $500 million on a roof for BC Place when the province
is in financial trouble and services are being cut.
his weekly column in the North Shore News (and other CanWest
we really need to spend almost $500 million for a new roof
on BC Place stadium?
At a time when the B.C. government is pleading poverty and
therefore slashing services in health care and education,
should this kind of spending be a priority?"
went on to argue that the BC Lions and small trade fairs could
very well get by with a smaller stadium like the old Empire
Stadium. He noted that: "
everything the B.C. government
is spending money on these days is framed against the backdrop
of what it isn't spending money on." It is hard to come
to grips with closed operating rooms, cuts to school sports,
the elimination of gaming grants for the arts and closing
the effective Eliminating Early Intensive Intervention program
for autistic children while at the same time spending a half
billion dollars on a roof for an entertainment complex. Is
that distorted priorities or what?
a half billion on the BC Place roof has to be seen in the
context of how the issue was dealt with during last spring's
provincial election, and how the soccer community forced the
NDP to cave in on the issue. Of course, that was when the
price tag for the roof was "only" $365 million and
while Premier Campbell was promising that the deficit would
not be a dime over $495 million. It was months ahead of cuts
to special needs children, the arts and school sports, and
at least a few weeks ahead of the surprise announcement on
the harmonized sales tax. At that less informed spring time,
the blogspot "Friends
of Soccer" boasted that the NDP : "
know that the pressure they felt on this issue over the past
week is just a fraction of what our community can bring on
them, or any political party, if they choose to use sport
as a political pawn again." I haven't noticed the "Friends
of Soccer" standing up for BC School Sports or for the
Special Olympics. Maybe they just care about large scale for-profit
24th Minute", another blog that supported the roof
replacement during the last election, quoted AM 1040's Tyler
Green and Mike Martignago as claiming that:
estimates that the full renovation and retractable roof
plan will generate $100 M in annual economic activity, cause
savings in energy costs associated with a fixed air-supported
roof and create more than 2,000 jobs. Government officials
have reported that 300 people are already working on-site
on the initial phases of the renovation.
Estimates for the economic impact of an MLS franchise playing
at BC Place are in the $25 M per annum range. The BC Lions
could drive $35 M to $40 M annually with the increased attendance
projected from a retractable roof. The 2011 CFL Grey Cup
would generate at least $75 M (based on results from the
last hosting in 2005)."
1040 placed a significant role on the stadium issue during
the spring election. It was on that station on
April 11th that NDP House Leader Mike Farnworth "
TEAM 1040 sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht that
the BC NDP "supports" the current $365 M BC Liberal
government plan going into the May 12th provincial election."
and James have the opportunity to further clarify the NDP
position in light of the information and decisions that have
come out since the election. Major Soccer League (MSL) games
had an average
attendance of 15,894 last year. Perhaps it is time to
ask whether a $500 million retractable roof needs to be built
to accommodate that kind of attendance. As Baldrey pointed
out with respect to the BC Lions, they don't attract huge
crowds; "The only reason we even need a 60,000-seat stadium
is to host the Grey Cup game every few years or so, and that
doesn't strike me as an important enough reason to spend huge
amounts of tax dollars for a mere roof."
Pavilion Corporation's David Podmore announced that costs
for the retractable roof had ballooned, the NDP response has
been left primarily to tourism critic Spencer Herbert. The
reaction has focused on criticizing the difference in
the pre-election and post-election cost estimates. Perhaps
the Friends of Soccer were right when they wrote about the
political pressure they can bring on any party, but I suspect
the NDP would win more respect by showing more backbone on
the stadium issue.