Friday, October 23, 2009

B.C. Place Renovation - The Right Choice

The announcement today that the BC Place renovations will go ahead as planned is great news for both sports fans and B.C.'s economy. Premier Campbell, Minister Krueger and the entire government caucus are to be commended for standing firm on this important election promise during challenging times.

During a recession, it's easy to see why some people may think investing in BC Place is a low priority. But the criticisms seem to be based solely on the number of sporting events held there each year. The stadium is far more vital to B.C.'s economy than just sporting events.

BC Place is currently used for 200 event days every year. Beyond sports, it hosts trade shows, conventions, community events and occasional concerts. So, sports alone not what investing in BC Place is about.

Investing in BC Place is about keeping jobs. Thousands of construction jobs on the roof and thousands more on the surrounding lands. It means thousands more in hospitality and tourism jobs. It keeps our largest city economically healthy. The economic spinoff just from having MLS alone could be worth as much $60 million in additional dollars per year. Add in the additional dates for large scale conventions and concerts that BC Place doesn't host now, and the numbers begin to make sense.

Every major city in North America that is comparable to Vancouver has at least one stadium built on the scale of BC Place. In many cities, like Seattle, there are two or even more. Seattle's downtown core has become more vibrant and alive with the additions of Qwest & Safeco Fields. The record crowds drawn by the MLS Seattle Sounders are helping to lift a stagnant economy, and have gone a long way to revitalizing what once a delapitated heritage section of the city. A rejuvenated BC Place will do the same in the surrounding areas, to the west and south of the stadium

In the end, there weren't many choices for the government in this scenario. A new downtown stadium would have cost the taxpayers upwards of $1 billion. Successive municipal governments have stood in the way of building a smaller scale stadium that could have been built completely with private funds. There had already been $65 million invested in stadium renovations. And while there were private investors reportedly considering investing in BC Place, the people of BC told the government that the stadium should remain a public entity.

The B.C. Government deserves a great deal of praise, thanks and respect for keeping this promise that was so important for the future of B.C. Sport, and B.C.'s economy. To this date, they are the only government at any level that has taken concrete action on the future of soccer in our province. Because of that, soccer players and fans can look forward to a fantastic new era in the history of our game, and our province can look forward to the economic benefits that will help fund the important government services we've come to expect.

See you on opening day!

Bill Currie,
Friends of Soccer

No comments: