Expensive building a solid concept, despite backlash
Author: John Loeppky – Sports Editor
There are three certainties in Regina on game-day: green will dominate the landscape, the supermarkets will sell out of watermelon and everyone will be talking about the new stadium. In terms of Regina municipal politics, only the third is true. You don’t have to talk to very many people before you realize that the new Casa Di Riders is a hot-button issue in the Queen City.
The supporters of the new stadium, though I’m sure they aren’t clad in fruit-inspired helmets and foam fingers when they declare their proclamations, make a number of significant points in favour of a new stadium.
Firstly, it is hard to argue that the Riders do not have a tangible impact on, not only the sports culture of the prairies, but also the economy of this town. Without that particular group of football players, hotels would not be filled to the brim on summer evenings; the bars and restaurants, no matter how shady or elite, would be as abandoned as the health plan office here at the U of R; and the merchandise sales made off the backs of those often underpaid players would not come rolling in, even as Mosaic fell into disrepair. A new stadium means new opportunity, improved revenue streams, and the chance to improve the only true calling card Regina has ever known – or so cry the supporters.
Those who campaign against the stadium have one bone to pick, one point of contention, and that is the fact that the funds allocated to the project could – in this group’s estimation – be better spent elsewhere. The arts community is always short of funds, schools across the province are struggling, and beyond that, healthcare could always use an increase in funding. There is a stadium already constructed, albeit one with well-documented flaws; a new stadium would not help the city in the slightest. Could the economic impact really outweigh the eyesore of an expense that will languish on the city’s balance sheet for thirty or more years? Many say no. Fundamentally, this is just a sports team. Whether the franchise is successful or not. throwing a football around is less important than the structural well being of our community and some feel, perhaps rightly, that the former is being prioritized over the latter.
I happen to side with the supporters. It is easy to say that the money could be spent elsewhere, but the economic impact of the team should not be dismissed as a few sports-crazed yahoos chucking balls and chugging beers. Critics state the stadium is a sore spot because the outcome felt inevitable, as no matter what concerns critics voiced, the deal was inevitable. In accordance, it is hard to justify such a massive expense – no matter how long it is stretched out over – when the team is winless for the this season. But, this project is more than a stadium, it is part of a revitalization project that (if you trust city planning) will help to enliven North Central and boost economic development. As well, for some, the lifeblood of this city can be traced back to the midfield line of Taylor Field. Funding is always an issue, but alluding to hypothetical allocation of funds in lieu of the stadium for some undefined spending objective is a weak argument, even if it is true that a new home for the Riders will not cure all the ill’s of Regina.