Published on May 17, 2009 10:34 PM by dbo.
The Toronto media is a buzz with coverage of Jim Balsillie’s attempt to acquire the Phoenix Coyotes and move them to southern Ontario (Hamilton, at least temporarily). Though many media types do not believe Basillie will be successful, the drama is covered daily with new developments the topic of articles and radio shows. This post is not about the attention this hockey story is getting, though. I welcome more Canadian NHL teams. What this is about is the spin the Balsillie group is putting on funding of improvements to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.
Last Thursday news broke over government funding of Copps Coliseum improvements in order to host an NHL team. The Balsillie group countered any thought that they were requesting the government pay for these improvements by stating they have not and would not ask for government funds for the arena. However, they were only leaseholders and the City of Hamilton could request federal infrastructure funds for the Coliseum. This is splitting hairs by saying the request is not coming from them. In last Thursday’s Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown on The Fan radio network, McCown questioned Jim Balsillie spokesperson Bill Walker on this point, specifically addressing the federal government’s stance to not fund football stadiums for private owners, but to only fund portions of complexes which have university and amateur use such as the deals in Winnipeg and Quebec City. Walker tried to spin the hockey arena as a different situation, with the existing building needed renovations, not starting from scratch. McCown countered that the cost of the renovations, $150 million, isn’t nothing. Listen to that specific exchange (2:44, 1.9MB) or subscribe to the Prime Time Sports podcast, if just to listen to the portion of Thursday, May 14’s broadcast with Bill Walker.
If federal money comes to Jim Balsillie in the form of renovating Copps Coliseum, then there exists a double standard over funding profesional stadiums/arenas for the benefit of private owners. Improvements to Copps Coliseum will not be able to be funded under the guise of benefiting a university and the standard so far has been to fund other athletic complexes at universities as part of larger projects when private partners have been involved. The claim that the existing building makes the difference also holds no water as the City of Ottawa has a outdoor stadium that will not receive any federal funding in its $100 million renovation. A federal government that contributes to these renovations and perhaps claims their previous policy only applies to outdoor stadiums will prove Canada has a hockey/football double standard. I am not opposed to the City of Hamilton and the Province of Ontario paying for these arena renovations if that is what their constituents want. The federal government, however, has an obligation to have a consitent policy across sports and across the country.