As talk of a new football stadium in Regina heats up, talk of the need for it and fairness in paying for it are heating up as well.
Well, since football and politics remain Saskatchewan’s favourite sports, let us join the conversation, beginning with discussing the need.
The province is proposing to pay $80 million of $278-million cost of the new proposal of outdoor stadium west of current Taylor Field location on Regina’s current fair grounds.
While most agree the facility now called Mosaic Stadium will eventually need replacement, many question the need to replace it right now — especially with another outdoor stadium. After all, Mosaic as just added a few million dollars worth of temporary seating and minor fix ups to capitalize in the renewed football interest surrounding the Roughriders and in preparation of hosting the 2013 Grey Cup. Some make the logical point that if this is indeed good enough to host Canada’s football showcase, it’s got to be good enough to play in for a while.
Of course, the ‘Riders can muddle through at old Mosaic Stadium for a while longer and the money can be better spent on something else. That’s the problem with building any new entertainment facility — you can always think of a better use of the money like new hospitals, schools and roads. In fact, it’s the easiest thing for stadium critics to do is make lists of more worthy uses of that $80 million the province is committing.
There again, if that were the attitude of the past, no Saskatchewan community would have ever had the hockey and curling rinks, baseball diamonds or golf courses that have not only produced massive recreational opportunities and a better lifestyle for us all but also elite athletes that have made this province proud.
And the other issue is that building costs continue to increase dramatically. To build it now would surely save money from the costs in the future when the ‘Riders might be more desperate to build a stadium quickly.
So if one accepts that spending money on a new football stadium now is the right and proper course, the question quickly becomes whether the Saskatchewan Party government’s $80-million contribution — roughly, 30 per cent of the cost — is the right amount. Stadium opponents argue it’s far too much and stadium proponents (especially, ones in Regina who may have to make up the difference with their municipal taxes) say it’s far too little.
The province’s argument that it has got the figure right is that it’s in range with the province’s contribution to other recreational facilities — the 22 per cent of provincial dollars for Moose Jaw’s new arena, 25 per cent for arenas in Spiritwood, Weyburn, North Battleford and Swift Current, 39 per cent for Estevan’s facility or the 49 per cent for Melville’s arena.
Others argue that, on a per capita basis, it’s a disservice to the people of Regina but an even bigger disservice to the entire population of the province — all of whom reap the benefit of Saskatchewan’s team.
In that regard, the province’s $80-million ante is on par with what the Manitoba government provided for the new, yet-to-be-opened stadium for the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg. But Saskatchewan being football-loving Saskatchewan, there is more.
The Saskatchewan government is providing “loan guarantees” for ease in borrowing for the City of Regina (that’s contributing at least $60 million) and other investors (i.e., the ‘Riders). Also, provincial money is contingent on the design of the stadium being “roof-ready”. This means the province is still pushing the idea of a year-round enclosed facility and Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible, made it clear that there will be provincial dollars to help put on the roof.
So the province will likely be paying a sizeable portion for this community project.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 15 years.