CALGARY – In the midst of an economic downturn that has negatively affected many Calgarians, the City of Calgary has decided to open its heart, and its wallet, with a pledge to spend $275 million on a new arena for the Calgary Flames.
“Things are rough in Calgary right now,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “If this act of taxpayer-funded kindness can put a smile on the face of even one of the millionaire or billionaire co-owners of the professional sports and entertainment company that owns the Flames and the Stampeders, then it’ll all be worth it.”
While some argue that the city spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars on a new arena while cutting $60 million from frontline services like police and firefighters makes no sense, the city council and mayor counter that this massive act of municipal generosity is just what’s needed to improve the low morale caused by the cuts to public services.
“Could the Flames’ owners afford to replace the Saddledome without any taxpayer money? Yes, they could pay for the whole thing without putting a dent in their net worth. Will the city make back what it spends on this? Probably not, most arenas only end up spurring as much economic activity as a mid-sized department store and projections for this project specifically put us $47 million in the hole,” Mayor Nenshi said.
“But we believe charity isn’t about making money. Or making sure the people you’re giving money to actually need the money you’re giving them. It’s about giving. Lavishly.”
The city council is hoping that their example will inspire more Calgarians to give generously to other projects that desperately don’t need money, like the fund that helps oil industry CEOs buy third summer homes or the Calgary Zoo program that brings in exotic animals for local safaris.