By now you’ve heard that the Abbotsford Heat are leaving. This is a bittersweet event for me. On the one hand, the contract that I have felt to be the spending of your tax dollars without your consent is gone. On the other hand, we now have a $100 million arena and only 25 events per year… with no anchor tenant.
Yes, we are going to save approximately $2 million per year on the Heat losses. Good.
Doing so without any plan for business in the building…Bad.
Let’s really dig into 3 main areas of this announcement.
1. An Admission of Guilt
During the Press Conference and his subsequent interview on CBC Radio, the Mayor said some very important things. He said that the next time Abbotsford “does this” we won’t be signing a 10-year contract. He also said that the next time Abbotsford “does this” that no money will go towards subsidizing a private business.
If you’ve followed any of my columns, or my time in the media over the last year, you would know that I was about to take the Heat Contract to the BC Supreme Court and argue that the term of the contract and the fact that it subsidized a private business (the Heat Ownership Group) meant the contract was in direct contravention of the Community Charter. Since the Mayor said they would not do that again, I can only infer that he knew, and Council and Staff knew, that the Abbotsford Heat Contract was in contravention of the Charter and therefore “illegal”.
Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for confirming that during the Press Conference.
2. An Admission of Stupidity
The Mayor also spoke of a new plan for AESC. It was shockingly new. Get this folks…
He is going to try and sell the naming rights to the building! Wow! We haven’t heard that before. The only reason to buy those naming rights just walked out the door…but he’s now going to sell naming rights to an empty building. Let’s start the bidding at $50! Anyone, anyone, anyone!
The Mayor also announced that they have re-negotiated and signed a contract with Global Spectrum.
Nice. The management company upon who’s flawed business plan all of Plan A was based on…the company who lost more than the Heat last year ($2.2 million)…the company who can’t bring in more than 20 events per year (if they could, they would have done so before now)…that is the “winner” you are going to re-commit yourself too???
Mr. Banman…you and our local government are a laughing stock. Why do you think you can negotiate with any of these companies? The Calgary Flames couldn’t wait to get their team out of here….they’re moving them so fast they don’t even have anywhere to go yet…and they are taking $5.5 million out of this community on their way out the door. To fix this, you’ve renewed the contract with the company that is taking more than $2 million a year from us…for nothing. $2 million a year for a Cirque du Soleil show that people would drive to Vancouver to see anyway. Wow. They must wring their hands with glee when they think about “re-negotiating” with the City of Abbotsford.
3. An Admission of Wishful Thinking
The rumours have started about how we may now get a WHL team here. People now say we’ve cleared the way for the Canucks to come to town. Let’s debunk those rumours quickly shall we.
First of all…we just told the entire hockey world that we don’t want a team. For 5 years we’ve told them only about 2000 of you will show up to a game. The Canucks farm team will make a difference you say? No. The last few times they have come here, it hasn’t been sell out every time.
In their current location, the Canucks team get about 4200 per game. That is still less than the 4800 we need to break even here and far below the hugely inflated 2600 per game we averaged with the Heat.
Why would they move the team from a reasonably successful market to one that has proven itself to be a loser?
The only way they would do it is if another contract was put in place just like the one we got rid off. We’ll pay your losses and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll give you millions on your way out the door.
A WHL team? At what cost?
You see we still don’t know what the Heat really cost us. Is there more money yet to go to the local owners? Were the losses reported to date a full accounting? What will the losses be this year when all the accounting is done?
One thing is for sure. You, the taxpayer, are going to pay for every single penny.