August 23 2009 06:00PM
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.
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.