People in Edmonton Don’t Want (To Pay For) A New Arena

Jonathan Willis
August 23 2009 06:00PM

rexall

An interesting study on support for a new taxpayer-funded arena for the Edmonton Oilers came out yesterday (g/t Battle of Alberta). The headline is that 76% of Edmontonians don’t like the idea of the city using tax dollars to help build a new arena.

Ipsos-Reid provides a detailed breakdown for support/non-support for using taxpayer dollars to build the arena:

  • 18 – 34: 30% support, 70% against
  • 35 – 54: 20% support, 80% against
  • 55+: 22% support, 78% against
  • Men: 24% support, 77% against
  • Women: 24% support, 76% against

It’s hard not to see the rationale for opposing spending tax dollars on an arena; particularly since the last four NHL arenas built in Canada (Vancouver, 1995; Ottawa, 1996; Montreal, 1996; Toronto, 1999) were built with private money.

This should mean that there’s very little chance of the Oilers playing out of a new building in the near future; on the other hand, big public works projects like this often go through despite contrary public opinion.

The most interesting thing about these numbers is how dramatically they’ve changed in less than two years. Towards the end of 2007/start of 2008, a public opinion study conducted by the University of Alberta found that only 50% were opposed with 48% supportive of using public dollars to build the arena.

Patrick Laforge was “overjoyed” at the time:

The divided public opinion doesn't discourage Oilers president Patrick LaForge, given that nobody has even seen a sketch or a model of the proposed arena. In fact, LaForge says he's thrilled so many Edmontonians already favour the project. "I'm overjoyed, shocked, I can't believe it. "Most humans respond visually ... so they would see something and say, 'I love it, that's a great idea.' But not even one sketch has been produced and the location hasn't even been discussed." Once sketches and plans are annnounced, the approval rating will grow "monstrously," predicts LaForge, who is also chairman of Edmonton's Chamber of Commerce. "People will see the real thing and go, 'Wow, do I ever love it.' "

With so many already strongly opposed to spending tax dollars on a new arena, I can’t see LaForge being right on this.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 ronaldo
August 24 2009, 02:37PM
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@ J-Bird RE: following through.

He's been owner for what, one year? Yet, the U of A facility should already be underway? (Which if I remember correctly he tied to the new arena.) I suppose he should have built a new arena and practice facility, and turned the Oil into Stanley Cup champs by now. You do realize he has other affairs to attend to as well (Rexall, night time crime fighting, moosing his hair, etc).

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#52 rhino9
August 24 2009, 03:08PM
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ronaldo wrote:

Just place tolls coming into Edmonton from St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, and Leduc and let those freeloaders pay for the new arena. Problem solved- I’ll take take club seats as payment for services renderred, thanks.

I would think the majority of people driving into edmonton from the freeloader citys either work there or are supporting edmonton business. I also forgot that the only the edmonton tax payer pays for ifrastructure work in the Edmonton area. Next time you open your mouth about who pays for what consider that almost 2/3 rds of almost all infrastrucutre projects are funded by either the canadain or alberta goverments. Therefore us freeloaders as you would tend to call us actually do pay for City of Edmonton Infrastructure projects!

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#53 ronaldo
August 24 2009, 03:17PM
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@ rhino9: See comment #18. Oh.....and thanks.

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#54 rhino9
August 24 2009, 03:22PM
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ronaldo wrote:

@ rhino9: See comment #18. Oh…..and thanks.

Did'nt get that far till after the post...and your welcome.

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#55 ronaldo
August 24 2009, 03:23PM
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@ rhino9: No worries. Just a bored Sunday night. Actually, I grew up as one of you "freeloaders". :)

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#56 rubbertrout
August 24 2009, 03:42PM
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These poll questions are actually something called a "push poll". The way that the questions are worded has a lot to do with the responses that are generated. Political types do this all the time. Look at these two questions:

a) Which Red Deer bred Calgary Flames defenceman has Cromagnon like features and is vastly overrated?

b) Which Calgary Flame has bolts on his neck, a flat head and greenish skin?

Maybe that wasn't the best example . . .

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#57 Librarian Mike
August 24 2009, 03:48PM
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@ rubbertrout:

I see what you mean. How about this one, regarding Mark Messier:

Q: Do you support bringing in one of the finest leaders ever known to professional sports to teach our young players how to win? Y/N

vs.

Q: Do you support parachuting yet another former player into a key position without any experience and whose mentor has become a laughingstock in the biggest market in North America? Y/N

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#58 jeff
August 25 2009, 08:38AM
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Doesn't suprise me at all that the number is so low for people in favor of an arena.

But I think if they build an arena will shopping, gambling, and hotels that this could be a good project for the city. Right now our downtown is a freaking dump, something like this could start changing the dynamics of our downtown core.

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#59 Zamboni Driver
August 25 2009, 09:29AM
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J-Bird wrote:

Not one cent of tax dollars should go into it, period. Or, the tax participants can be shareholders in the revenue side for years to come, which Katz would never sign off of. Which again answers why they want a new arena.

Agreed entirely.

On top of this, the demand would surely be for Katz to be able to receive the newest piece of pure evil greed that are....

SEAT LICENSES.

"Okay, you're going to give me an arm and a leg and a left nut every year for tickets to watch Steve Staois skate backwards...sorta....on top of this we'll be needing, oh...about 5 grand for the RIGHT to give us money.

Thanks."

I think the Rex is becoming more of an eyesore, and I am actually of the opinion that a new arena downtown might actually help downtown a little.....

But don't see it happening any time soon.

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#60 J-Bird
August 25 2009, 09:44AM
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I don't see what spending tax dollars on a facility that over 99.9% of Edmonton residents cannot/or don't care to attend, accomplishes other than providing a billionaire owner more revenue streams.

The is extreem right wing Alberta, and I think it's laughable that fans expect a hand out from the government, be it municipal, provincial, or federal. In case some of you missed it, the province is approaching a $7 billion deficit this year, federally worse, the city of Edmonton is stretched to the max. Subsidizing a billionaire owner, and millionaire hockey players is not going to happen in this economy, and IMO should never happen in any economy.

Priorities, and economy, will dictate tax dollars. And if Mr. Katz wants a new rink, then he can build the thing with his own resourses.

As he said, "life's short enough as it is". So get on with it, or put your hand back in you pocket jerky.

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#61 Jon
August 25 2009, 11:13AM
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@J-Bird, I empathize with your points re: Billionaire owner, sports arenas receive tax dollars in all political realities (even further extreme right wing America ... gasp). If you want pro sports to exist then you have to play with the big boys and suck it up. If not, perhaps we can see if the Peg wants to share the Moose with us.

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#62 jeff
August 25 2009, 11:53AM
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Funny our tax payer money goes into all kinds of things that I don't use Buses/LRT, City Center Airport, Leisure Centures, Winspear Centre, Library's etc..., but I don't complain because I do know that there are services I use that get tax payer money.

Now I'm not saying that the City should fund the project out right, but I don't see the problem with them chipping in and maybe taking some of the revenues.

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#63 Joey Moss
August 25 2009, 12:05PM
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katz isnt going to move the team because the city refuses him an arena. what is going on here is that the team wants the city to take on the financial risk while the oil benefit from the reward. i could understand the city paying for an arena if they had some financial stake or say in the management of the team - but that isn't the case. i say if you have the money to buy a hockey team you better have the money to build them a new arena. if the city ends up paying for this building i will be personally enraged at the team.

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#64 Stan the Caddy
August 25 2009, 12:13PM
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Forgive me if this topic has been discussed already but, what was the last major sports facility in Canada to be built with taxpayer money? Was it SkyDome? That was certainly a short-term success story.

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#65 J-Bird
August 25 2009, 04:54PM
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Jon wrote:

perhaps we can see if the Peg wants to share the Moose with us.

I get the point of what your saying, but Rexall currently provides a viable arena for the NHL product. The Winnipeg Arena was not even in the neighborhood of what Rexall currently is.

As fans, all it would get is shorter pee line ups, shorter beer line ups, and shorter hot dog line ups. Maybe a little more room to move around. It would be nice. But in life you have needs and wants and I think that applies here.

What a new rink gets the Oilers is millions more money, on the backs of taxpayers.

The arena issue in Edmonton is nothing like the arena issue in Winnipeg. Not even close.

Also, speaking of "big boys", Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto all built their arena's without public money. Edmonton should behave accordinly.

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#66 6zeppelin6
August 25 2009, 11:03PM
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Perhaps if they started winning more people would be For the idea. I can understand why the city doesn't want to pay for mediocracy.

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