Sports team own­ers looking for pub­lic money are try­ing to ex­ploit fans pas­sions

Calgary Sun - - COMMENT -

The uber wealthy own­ers of the Cal­gary Flames want the people of Cal­gary to sub­si­dize the Flames’ new hockey arena with tax dol­lars.

We now know more de­tails about how they have been try­ing for some time to pry pub­lic money from city hall to help pay for that new arena.

Last week, they tried to make Cal­gary Mayor Na­heed Neshi a po­lit­i­cal hostage in th­ese ne­go­ti­a­tions dur­ing his on­go­ing re-elec­tion cam­paign.

By an­nounc­ing they were no longer go­ing to build an arena one month be­fore the next mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, they made them­selves and their po­si­tion a cam­paign is­sue.

My ad­vice to Cal­gary vot­ers is to not pay one cent of

I love hockey. I love go­ing to watch pro­fes­sional hockey games. I have a deep emo­tional at­tach­ment to the sports teams I love. I un­der­stand the pas­sion Cal­gar­i­ans have for their beloved Flames.

But it is ex­actly this pas­sion and emo­tion that the mul­ti­mil­lion­aire own­ers of the Flames are looking to ex­ploit po­lit­i­cally, to ne­go­ti­ate more of the city’s tax dol­lars for their plans.

It is im­por­tant to put aside tem­po­rar­ily the emo­tion you have for the team and think ra­tio­nally about the cur­rent own­ers of that team and their mo­tives.

First off, the Cal­gary Flames are not mov­ing to an­other city. The Flames sold 767,829 tick­ets last sea­son to rank 10th of 30 teams in the Na­tional Hockey League in at­ten­dance.

The league won’t al­low one of the best teams in the league to move, when there are teams like Carolina or Ari­zona who are strug­gling.

It also will not al­low the Flames to move when it can get over $500 mil­lion in new fran­chise fees for a new team, as it did this year from Las Ve­gas.

This is not a sports story. It’s a busi­ness and pol­i­tics story.

Pro­fes­sional sports teams do not look at what is best for the broader pub­lic in­ter­est, but at what is best for their in­ter­ests.

We like to think pro­fes­sional sports teams are all about win­ning cham­pi­onships. We like to iden­tify the suc­cess of our sports teams with our pride for our com­mu­ni­ties.

But at the end of the day, pro­fes­sional sports teams are about mak­ing money, with the goal to make as much as pos­si­ble.

Re­cently, we learned Sco­tia­bank will pay Maple Leaf Sports and En­ter­tain­ment $800 mil­lion to have the nam­ing rights to the hockey arena in down­town Toronto.

If the Leafs can get $800 mil­lion for nam­ing rights, what will the Flames get for a new arena?

In 2013, Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions signed a 12-year, $5.2-bil­lion multi-media rights deal with the NHL.

Ac­cord­ing to in the 2015/16 sea­son, the to­tal league rev­enue of the NHL was US $4.1 bil­lion.

In 2016, the av­er­age NHL fran­chise was val­ued at US $517 mil­lion, a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease from US $282 mil­lion in 2012.

Cal­gary will not lose its hockey team.

The mayor needs Cal­gar­i­ans’ sup­port to send a mes­sage that while the Flames are wel­come to build a new arena, it should be done with pri­vate money and not on the backs of tax­pay­ers. @james­b­war­ren

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