By James Brecknridge. That is the Question that I asked myself after I finished reading Let Minor Sports Use Abbotsford Centre .
Now I know that people after reading the opening sentence may well be thinking ‘He’s lost it’ if they know or read me and that anyone reading my writing for the first time is going ‘Huh?’ how can comparing an arena to an arena not be comparing apples to apples? Especially if they have stood in both the Abbotsford rink and the Langley rink and know how very similar the rinks are.
When the Abbotsford Centre was originally completed and city council was scrambling desperately because they had built this $100,000,000.00 facility and had no tenant lined up to play there I called for council not to let their egos have them paying any price to save face by getting a hockey team to play in their Great White – Empty – Elephant and to save the Abbotsford’s taxpayers $3,000,000.00 a year by leaving the facility closed until they had a sound business plan.[Here we go again – Rush, Rush, Rush, http://www.jameswbreckenridge.ca/?dp=138 Not another costly ‘profit’, http://www.jameswbreckenridge.ca/?p=158 Abbotsford’s $expensive$ AHL pipedream
Since the Heat have left town I want to know why council renegotiated Global Spectrums contract for the Centre rather that mothballing the Centre, an action that would save taxpayers $3,000,000.00 per year. At least until such time as council finely came up with a viable business plan.
The fact is that in several ways comparing the Langley arena to the Abbotsford arena is comparing an apple and an orange.
Consider this chart:
One of the things that always leaves me shaking my head sadly is that once you have stood inside both Arenas and experience the extent to which both arenas are the same, it boggles the mind that the taxpayers of the Abbotsford paid 667% more than Langley’s taxpayers paid.
Given that Abbotsford City Council always makes excuses and never accepts responsibility for the consequences of their errors in judgement it is no surprise Council has refused to explain to taxpayers how it is that Abbotsford’s taxpayers paid 667% more than Langley’s taxpayers did, for what is effectively the same arena.
It is even more mind boggling that for some unfathomable reason, Abbotsford taxpayers, in light of the fact they have re-elected those responsible and never question the WHY of paying 667% more [6.67 times as much], seemed to be comfortable with and accepting of the fact they, as Abbotsford taxpayers, paid 667% more for the same arena, than did Langley’s taxpayers.
I find that acceptance unfathomable because the only reason for the difference – the vast difference – in the cost to taxpayers between Abbotsford and Langley is the decisions, actions and competence of the two councils.
During the fiscal year Abbotsford pays $6,696,000.00 [7,884,000.00 – 1,188,000.00] more then Langley for their arena.
So, even if you assume that Langley’s arena is as badly managed as the Abbotsford Centre is and thus runs the same yearly operating deficit of $3,000,000.00 as the Abbotsford Centre does, the $6,696,000.00 less per year for construction and interest costs paid by Langley and its taxpayers, gives Langley significantly more flexibility, affordability, when it comes to paying for an annual subsidy of $3,000,000.00.
I think it highly unlikely that Langley’s arena is as badly managed as Abbotsford’s arena for several reasons.
First is that over the past decade plus Abbotsford’s council has time after time demonstrated a lack of basic financial and management sensibilities or abilities. Every time that council has promised a profit or savings or senior government grants, the reality has turned out to be losses/operating subsidies or large cost over runs or Zip, Nada, Nothing from the senior levels of government – because Abbotsford council failed to handle the grant request properly. So while Langley’s council may not have demonstrated masterful financial, business or management skills…… they have demonstrated their ability not to ‘screw up’ financial, business or management as Abbotsford’s council has repeatedly done over the past decade plus.
Second is the fact that the Langley Chiefs were partners with Langley in building the arena – after Abbotsford’s council turned down the Chief’s offer to partner with the City of Abbotsford to build a new arena for the Chief’s to move into and play out of. Langley benefits from the Chief’s experience with the arena in Chilliwack. More importantly Langley has a stable, profitable franchise as their anchor tenant.
The final cost consideration that needs to be consider, another significant negative financial factor for Abbotsford is that Abbotsford’s council has been playing….fast and loose shall we say….with the DCC [Development Cost Charges] funds, using the funds to avoid the large tax raises that were required to pay for council’s profligate, spending.
Actually, not avoid having to have large tax raises but to push the large tax raises into the future in hopes of……an economic miracle that would allow council to avoid or further delay having to crank taxes by double [10% or more] digits?
There has been no economic miracle and Abbotsford’s taxpayers are on the hook to pay back the money used to keep tax increases artificially low. Since the DCC funds are to be spent on infrastructure, not operating the City, Abbotsford’s taxpayers are facing large tax increases, deep cuts to city services or some combination of tax increases and service cuts to repay the DCC funds.
It may well turn out that Abbotsford’s civic government either saves $3,000,000.00 by mothballing the arena OR cuts $3,000,000.00 from other parts of its operating budget or raises taxes by $3,000,000.00.
No matter how similar the Abbotsford and Langley arenas may be in structure, when it comes to the financial realities of each building, the buildings are as different as a luxury penthouse condo and one of Abbotsford’s many [thanks council] homeless camps.
There are also significant differences between two Centres structure and infrastructure.
Langley’s arena is part of a complex that has outdoor sports field, indoor basketball courts, meeting rooms etc. Abbotsford’s arena is squeezed onto a piece of property that only has room for the arena itself..
The Langley complex is surrounded by acres of parking – free parking.
From the day the site of the Abbotsford Centre was proposed parking has been an issue, a nonexistent nightmare.
Why would any local sports team, teams that depend on parents and their participation, want to use the Abbotsford Centre and tell parents: you can park free at a mall and transport yourselves and all the hockey equipment to the arena by bus, reversing the process [bus to shopping centre parking lot] in order to leave; there is paid parking available for only $1 for every 2 hours. Of course the parking is a long or longer distance to be hauling hockey gear so you might want to consider dropping your hockey players off before looking for parking; parking times are strictly enforced and fines for violations are not cheap; there is free parking available if you can handle the 2 – 3 [or longer] kilometre walk to the arena.
Finally, importantly, there is also the fact that there was no need for another ice surface in Abbotsford. The ice surface at the Abbotsford Centre was constructed not to meet a community need or demand for more ice but to meet the needs of mayor and councillors egos.
Enticing teams to use the ice surface at the Abbotsford Centre simply reduces the use, the revenue, at other city rinks – at the cost to taxpayers of $3,000,000.00 a year.
Oh, BLEEP! An idea that will cost, waste $3,000,000.00 of taxpayers hard earned dollars? Just the types of idea Abbotsford’s mayors and councillors have shown they love.