Should Saskatoon build a new arena downtown?
It’s a question that’s been plaguing the city for years, and a query posed to a gathering hosted by CBC Tuesday night at the Remai Modern.
SaskTel Centre was established on the city’s north end in 1988, and the aging arena either needs to be upgraded or replaced, according to the city.
A report to city council in March noted it would take at least $110 million to renovate SaskTel Centre, or in excess of $300 million to construct a new arena.
“The Romans built their coliseum downtown,” SaskTel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl said in response to critics who expressed concerns about the impact on parking and nightlife.
Lofdahl told people at the event SaskTel Centre is already losing out on big acts because of their lack of modern amenities.
“From the production side of things our rigging steel is too low, dressing rooms are inadequate, there are homes in this town that have larger kitchens than what we have,” Lofdahl said.
“We’re finding that if it’s easier to play at another building, more convenient then there’s less likelihood that they’ll select us.”
Victor Matheson, a sports economist based in Massachusetts, warned those who are pro-downtown arena that it likely wouldn’t generate any new revenue.
“Stadiums and arenas tend to relocate economic activity rather than generate a whole lot of new economic activity,” he said.
“You’re making a decision to spend an extra roughly $250 million primarily to move economic activity about four miles south. That’s a lot of money to spend for a stadium that gets used to capacity for only about 20 days a year.”
Janice Braden, who labels herself as a “policy wonk,” questioned whether Saskatoon taxpayers could afford the rate hike necessary to raise the funds for a new arena.
“Fifty per cent of employees say they are living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “I’m not sure that there would be the support out there for a large proposal even if we thought it was a good idea.”
About 100 people attended the meeting.