If the B.C. government really wants to help taxpayers generate a large amount of money to lower B.C.’s debt and reduce annual financial costs it should sell B.C. Place.
The Horgan government’s decision to sell the naming rights for B.C. Place Stadium has generated the same kind of public controversy that arose previous times that provincial governments mused about new financial deals for the publicly owned sports and entertainment facility.
There are those who say that the name should be left alone because taxpayers financed the construction and maintenance of the stadium for hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly four decades; that it’s “our” stadium and so B.C. Place is the most appropriate name. Handing that over for a relatively small sum each year to corporate interests would be wrong, that camp argues.
There are others who say that it makes sense for the province to secure a corporate “partner” to help finance the perennially money-losing operation. Anything to take some of the pressure off taxpayers is worth it, they say, while also pointing out that there are very few arenas in North America, including public ones, where naming rights haven’t been sold.
Other British Columbians don’t care one way or the other — about a quarter of them, according to an unscientific online poll we conducted.
Let us join those in supporting the provincial government’s decision to issue a call for proposals this week to sell the naming rights. In fact, we’d encourage it to go a step further by seriously considering selling B.C. Place — something that previous NDP leader Adrian Dix suggested during the 2013 provincial election campaign.
Here’s the thing. Selling the naming rights — or the entire stadium — is entirely a financial decision where logic, not emotion, should guide the process.
As our Victoria columnist Vaughn Palmer pointed out earlier this week, B.C. Place lost $12 million in its last fiscal year, more than the $7 million it lost the year before. Annual interest payments on the debt connected to the half-billion-dollar roof addition completed under the previous Liberal government alone total $5 million a year.
B.C. Place, which is run by the B.C. Pavilion Corp., is a perennial financial drain on taxpayers.
The Liberals came close to selling the naming rights to Telus in 2012 for $35 million over 20 years, plus $5 million in in-kind donations. That provides a rough idea of the kind of money — perhaps $2 million a year — the rights might be worth.
While anything that reduces the financial obligation on taxpayers caused by the stadium is a good thing, selling the naming rights alone won’t do much. With the current levels of red ink flowing annually from the facility, taxpayers would still be on the hook for millions of dollars a year — while also losing the right to call the stadium B.C. Place.
The question needs to be asked (and answered by the NDP): How is the public interest being served in subsidizing private, pro sports teams, big musical stars, conventions and other private consumer events?
B.C. Place isn’t a school, hospital or other core public facility. Precious and limited tax dollars sucked away to prop up the stadium could be better used for real public services, especially these days where there are so many critical needs.
Clearly, the NDP government is selling the naming rights for financial reasons, and that’s great. But if it really wants to help taxpayers, generate a large amount of money to lower B.C.’s debt and reduce annual financial costs, it should sell B.C. Place.
Editorials are unsigned opinion pieces representing the views of The Vancouver Sun editorial board, which is made up of senior editors. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at [email protected].
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