A budding cultural hub
World Cup curling competition precipitated my first WFCU Arena visit. Curling was spectacular; the venue, first rate. How impre s s ive are suspended banners to Spitfires’ achievements. Although I’ve not attended a Spitfire game, it was easy to imagine how the WFCU arena would inspire quality hockey players to perform to their maximum.
High quality facilities encourage exceptional performances from those with the capacity to entertain and dazzle the public. Spitfire hockey is a case study of excellence in a facility contributing to excellence in performance.
Governments are engaged directly and indirectly in supporting the development of performance centres for athletes. Perhaps it is simply land assembly or the provision of investment incentives or infrastructure. In the U.S., sports industries have cajoled numerous city governments into immense public subsidies, loans and incentives simply to host a city-name sports team.
Ironically, in Canada, where conservatives presume an omnipresent government, we tend to shy away from massive government involvement in specialty sports facilities. A recent tiff over the prospect of federal spending on an ice arena for a prospective NHL hockey team in Quebec City illustrates the point.
In the U.S., private sponsorship of sports and cultural events and facilities is the norm. From the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to Sun Life Stadium in Miami, private corporations have garnered assumed benefits from stadium naming rights.
The WFCU in Windsor, the Vollmer Centre in LaSalle, the new United Communities Credit Union sports complex in Amherstburg, the Unico ice rink in Leamington and an upgraded arena in Kingsville all derive benefit from private donors and their right to promote a name. One cannot argue against such donors for with- out their generosity we would all become either government dependent or survive with outdated facilities.
Americans also take private support of culture seriously. Recently, for example, I spent a spectacular day at the Meijer Sculpture Garden in Grand Rapids, Mich. On a property developed by Frederick and Lena Meijer (of retail store fame!) Grand Rapids sports one of the world’s most highly regarded sculpture gardens.
Windsor also has a spectacular sculpture garden which includes 34 sculptures including some by those who also display in the Meijer Garden in Grand Rapids. Windsor, you may recall, was once designated the “Sculpture Capital of Canada.” We are a budding cultural hub.
Announcing that the city would purchase the Capitol Theatre, Mayor Eddie Francis finally provided substance to a faint hope that the city, the county and the private sector will take the future of culture and the arts almost as seriously as they do sports.
The Capitol Theatre, after its ordeal, and the former armou- ries as cultural focal points in Windsor should direct thinking to a prospective future regional cultural industry. For, if a resurgence of heavy manufacturing is unlikely, then there is the prospect of a regional economic resurgence as an arts and culture hub.
Windsor has an astoundingly high quality symphony orchestra; the Odette Sculpture Garden; a thriving film festival, blues festival, live theatre in multi-locations; an exceptional art gallery and an endless supply of visual and performing artistic talent. There is herein a nexus for a thriving cultural and arts industry which would attract tourists. Stratford replaced railways with theatre.
I’ll wager there are as many high-quality national artists, musicians, authors and performers as there are hockey players in Windsor-Essex County. But where are the private sponsors?
If we desire to avoid reliance upon governments then we need an active private sector supporting not just sports but culture and arts.