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


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.

  • Hippy

    @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.

  • Hippy

    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.

  • Hippy

    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.

  • Hippy

    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.

  • Hippy

    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.