Regina City Council moves forward with new stadium
The crowd was roaring in Regina Monday night, but not at a Roughiders game; instead a city council meeting had hundreds of people's blood boiling.
Several hours into the meeting council unanimously passed a Memorandum Of Understanding that will advance the construction of a new $278 million, 33,000-seat stadium. But that's not what the hundreds in the gallery wanted to hear.
A boisterous cry rose up after the seven councillors in attendance cast their vote in favour of accepting a $100 million loan from the province (in addition to an $80 million grant) to bolster its own $73 million contribution towards the construction of a new stadium facility. The Roughriders are also expected to drum up $25 million through sponsorship and naming rights opportunities.
Hundreds poured into council chambers to watch the proceedings, dozens standing or sitting on the floor after seating ran out. Fifteen people pleaded with council to either put the decision to a referendum or delay a vote until after this fall's election.
"I have watched women return to abusive relationships with their children because they cannot find adequate housing," related Mona Hill, a Regina woman who works with low-income people. Like many others she pleaded with council to re-think its priorities, arguing that affordable housing is a much more dire priority right now. Florence Stratton also took that tack.
"Who is the stadium project good for? ... Not for Regina citizens, who will spend years paying for the stadium through their taxes. Not for those who are struggling with housing. They don't have enough money to pay the rent, much less buy a ticket to a Rider game. Who will be stadium project benefit? Only a few select developers, contractors, and realtors."
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Colin Craig says it's a blow to citizens. He feels public consultation was lacking, at best. He wanted Council to look at the actual support in the community for a stadium.
Chairing the meeting in Mayor Pat Fiacco's absence, Councillor Mike O'Donnell gave a forceful speech about the necessity of a new facility. He countered many arguments from the public by insisting that the city will still make strides forward in its affordable housing efforts alongside the stadium as part of the larger Regina Revitalization Initiative (RRI), the development project that includes the stadium as its first phase. O'Donnell also insisted that the city should be dreaming big, envisioning a state-of-the-art design that will provide numerous means to generate revenue.
At the prompting of councillors, city staff also tried to clear up what were referred to as numerous misconceptions among some portions of the public, namely that the new stadium will be a carbon copy of Mosaic Stadium and that private sector investment could still be seen on a larger scale as the project progresses.
Councillor Louis Browne also added that he felt the process so far has been transparent because all the pertinent documents have been posted to the city's web site. Those comments were met with audible scoffs, likely because while 14 people appeared to speak council members didn't ask a single question throughout the proceedings.
In addition to Mayor Fiacco, councillors Chris Szarka, Terry Hincks, and Wade Murray were also not in attendance.