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Report on Saddledome options

November 15, 2017
Report on Saddledome options

Back on June 20 I filed a freedom of information (FOI) request with the City of Calgary for “reports, analysis, memos or briefing notes” since January 1, 2014 that examine the cost of “repairing or renovating” the Saddledome.

While the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has been firm for decades that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize private businesses – whether we’re talking about the Calgary Flames, Bombardier or some other private enterprise – some council members have obviously supported using some level of tax dollars to build a new arena.

We would expect that any council member calling for a new arena would at least have a report in hand that indicates what’s wrong with the current arena and estimates for addressing those problems.

Many have suggested there are problems with the roof and other aspects of the arena. Ok, so what’s the cost to fix those problems?

When I previously worked for the CTF in Winnipeg, many politicians, as well as the Blue Bombers, started to push publicly for a new stadium. Taxpayers were told the existing facility was 'too old' and it would cost $52 million to repair it. Many compared the idea of repairing the stadium to having an old car and knowing when to stop throwing thousands of dollars into fixing it – sometimes you just have to say goodbye.

Fortunately, Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck did a little digging ... he asked for the report that suggested it would cost $52 million to repair. Brodbeck received a copy, read through it and later wrote that the true cost to repair the stadium was actually $14.4 million. The $52 million estimate was a figure touted by politicians that included not just repairs to the facility, but all kinds of new bells and whistles. 

If there's a similar report for the Saddledome, I haven’t seen it … hence why I filed the aforementioned FOI.

Just recently the City of Calgary responded to the FOI request by providing me with a report that was commissioned by the Saddledome Foundation to determine what to do with the current arena if a new arena is built and the Flames are no longer tenants.

It’s an interesting report, one that looks at various options – turning the Saddledome into a convention centre, a recreation complex, a smaller venue for concerts, etc.

However, I still didn’t see an answer to my question – what’s the cost of renovating or repairing the current arena?

Shouldn’t council members in favour of using millions of tax dollars to build a new arena have such a report?

If they do, hopefully they’ll share it with taxpayers!

If they don’t, they should go back to square one and ask that very question.

To read the report on potential uses for the Saddledome – click here

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