For $40-million I will happily rename my children Rogers Arena, Bell Centre and Safeco Field. At least for the next 20 years.
For me, the name BC Place never instilled any special sense of pride. Never once did I think: “Thank goodness we haven't sold out to the corporate evil of Staples, or BMO, or Bell.”
I’ll admit, it’s a dome into which I rarely ventured under the old roof, and have yet to step foot in under the new, allegedly retractable, one.
I didn't much like the way the new roof looked just after it was built, but I've gotten used to it. As have, (I assume) the hundreds of condo owners whose views now include massive steel-grey spires held taut by greasy (sometimes too greasy) cables.
B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Roofs, Pat Bell, says most people in B.C. feel differently than me. The minister is certain that British Columbians want their professional sports shrines to remain untainted by the sort of unfettered and wild-eyed corporate greed that has soiled so many other holy places of sport.
In the debate this week over the government turning down a naming-rights deal with Telus, the minister's explanation amounted to three lines in a government press release:
“Government decided not to approve a naming rights agreement for BC Place following extensive discussions between the BC Pavilion Corporation and TELUS. This decision was made after determining that the proposed agreement did not provide best value for taxpayers. We also believe British Columbians have a strong attachment to the BC Place name.”
Says who? Upon what does the minister base his belief?
If the argument is that in the end the value of the civic pride associated with maintaining the name BC Place outweighs the benefit of renaming the dome, then why did the government enter into the negotiations in the first place? Will our strong attachment to the BC Place name slip away as dollars are added to the pot?
If the answer is yes, then after that the only question is – how much? How much money would it take for the government to decide that the public wasn’t that attached to BC Place?
Minister Bell’s explanation is that as talks progressed with Telus, it became clear that the corporation intended to erase all references to BC Place, which was not acceptable.
So just to recap then, negotiations aimed at renaming the stadium Telus Field included renaming the stadium Telus Field.
It’s no wonder the NDP wants to see the business plan.
What we know for certain is that according to B.C. Finance Minister Kevin Falcon, the deficit for this year stands at about $2.5-billion and that he's committed to balancing the budget by 2013-2014.
I’m no economist, but it seems imprudent that a person so fixed on eliminating the deficit would pass up $40-million in revenue.
A corporate naming deal, and the cash that came with it, might go some way to convincing the public that the provincial government was making an effort to recoup at least some of the more than half-billion-dollar cost of the renovation, especially since the casino deal (which they were apparently banking on) fell through.
It has been reported in the pages of this newspaper that $2-million a year over 20 years wasn't in any way a bad deal, when compared with other naming-rights agreements.
As it stands, the refurbished BC Place Stadium with its new roof is in danger of becoming the Liberals’ Fast Ferries – a symbol of government ineptitude and incompetence.
For some people it’s already there.
For opponents of this government, the new roof has become the go-to answer in any discussion about how wisely the province spends our tax dollars.
Ask any teacher how, in these times of restraint, the province could come up with the money to increase wages or limit class sizes and the answer is invariably, “Well, they can afford a half-billion-dollar roof for a sports stadium.”
Government MLAs tell us that line is getting old and tired.
That may be so, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
Would taking $2-million a year for renaming the stadium make everything right? No.
But it wouldn’t hurt.