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The white elephant in the room

Putting $278 million in perspective

Taouba Khelifa
News Editor

On Monday Jan. 28, the City of Regina finalized its plans to move forward with the new stadium project. The motion passed with a 10-1 vote in favour of the plan – city counsellor Shawn Fraser opposed.

While construction of the stadium will not be until the spring of next year, the Roughriders have expressed excitement about the plan moving ahead. Roughriders’ executive director Jim Hopson was at the Jan. 28 meeting where the motion was passed. After three long hours of discussion, Hopson said he got the news he was waiting for.

“There’s just so much positive energy … I know there’s a lot of work to be done on the stadium, but this is a big step,” he said.

But, it wasn’t all positive energy at Monday’s meeting.

Those opposed to the stadium plan also made it out to the council meeting, and presented their concerns and dismay at the lack of the City’s responsibility in taking their constituents’ worries into account.    

“We have much more pressing needs in this city, and this issue obviously illustrates [the city council’s] priorities,” said Regina resident Danny Johnston.

Premier Brad Wall and former Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco announced plans for the new stadium six months ago, and opposition towards the plan has been growing ever since. Costing the city $278 million, the new open-air stadium will be built on the grounds of Evraz Place, and will be home to 33,000 new seats.

Of the $278 million, Regina will be putting forth $73 million, the province $80 million, in addition to a $100 million loan, and the Roughriders will contribute $25 million.

The current home of the Roughriders, the 76-year-old Mosaic Stadium, will be demolished, leaving an open area for the city to invest into residential and commercial buildings.

Along with the excitement of the Roughriders, politicians have also shown much enthusiasm about the new stadium. Premier Brad Wall presented the project as a well deserved plan for “the best fans in Canada and the best team in Canada,” while city Counselor Terry Hincks said that it was “important we leave this place a better place for future generations. And the way we do that is to build things to make it better for our children and grandchildren.”

While those opposed to the stadium agree that the city needs to build and improve, a new stadium is not the right direction, they argue. If Canada’s stadium history can teach any lessons, the new stadium will only push the city, and its future generation, into many years of debt instead of prosperity, some argue.

For instance, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was built to welcome the 1976 Olympic games to the city. A 58,500-seat stadium, Quebec taxpayers took nearly three decades to pay off the $1.5 billion debt from the project. Now, the stadium has no main tenants, and is the white elephant – a burdensome, albeit expensive, possession – of the city.

If Montreal’s stadium experience is any indication, Regina citizens say the city need not invest in a white elephant, but in infrastructure such as affordable housing, or a grocery store in North Central.

To put the $278 million into comparison, the Carillon took on an experiment, putting the money into perspective. Using the online RSMeans Construction Calculator, and inputting 200,000 square feet of building space, the calculator showed that $278 million could go a long way. With that amount of money, the city could build a number of public infrastructures: 8 libraries; 12 grocery stores; seven elementary schools; eight daycares; 10 community centers; four small hospitals; seven six-story apartment buildings; or a combination of these infrastructures to create a completely new neighborhood.

Moving away from infrastructure, and putting the money in student terms, $287 million can fund nearly 11,583 university bachelor degrees.

Photo illustration by Taouba Khelifa

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