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Nordiques fans listens to Quebec mayor Regis Labeaume to announce his desire to build a new hockey arena in the city on Oct.16, 2009. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press)
Nordiques fans listens to Quebec mayor Regis Labeaume to announce his desire to build a new hockey arena in the city on Oct.16, 2009. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press/The Canadian Press)

Robert Silver

L. Ian's arena Add to ...

Of all the silly things that have been written about the prospects of the federal government handing over $200-million for an arena in Quebec City, by far my favourite to date comes from L. Ian MacDonald's column this morning. After laying out an absurd argument that this is really no more than a tiny little down payment on the near certain 2022 Winter Olympics (and who could be opposed to that?), he drops this gem:

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As for financial backing for the Nordiques bid, Quebecor's Pierre-Karl Peladeau is prepared to put up $225 million to secure a franchise. That would obviously work as a convergence play for his television and print media properties. For that matter, he would probably put up another $100 million in naming rights for the building, unless he was prepared to see Rogers or Bell have their name on it. So in that sense, there would be private money in the arena. Nor does it take much to work up an impact study that governments would recover their costs through consumption taxes generated by ticket sales and concessions. This is not heavy lifting.

So since Peladeau is going to pay $100-million for the naming rights of the new Colisée, the notion that it's really public money paying for the stadium is incorrect per L. Ian. A couple of things:

1. If Peladeau is "probably" going to pay $100-million for naming rights, why wouldn`t he put up the money right now instead of requiring federal money; and the reason is

2. Peladeau isn`t putting up $100-million for naming rights. Neither is Rogers or Bell. Not even close.

Consider this ESPN-produced list of arena naming-rights fees from across North America. In Miami, a market many multiples the size of Quebec City, American Airlines paid $2.1-million to name the Heat`s arena. In Washington D.C., a place where football is every bit the religion that hockey is in Quebec, FedEx paid $7.6-million.

In fact, by my math, if you take an average of every single stadium naming rights that ESPN has listed - 62 of them in total, so a decent sample - the average naming rights fee that has been paid is roughly $2.7-million. Said otherwise, the average naming rights paid for stadiums and arenas in almost every instance in markets bigger than Quebec City is less than 3 per cent what MacDonald claims Peladeau will "probably" pay for Quebecor Arena.

The LARGEST naming fee ESPN has listed is still only $10-million (Reliant paid that amount for the Houston Texans stadium) and yet to fight off a drunken Rogers and Bell, Peladeau is going to drop ten times the biggest fee that ESPN has disclosed for a tiny market. Wonderful.

Of course this is what happens when you start playing the professional sports subsidy game, tiny things like "facts" and "reality" go out the window. That shouldn`t stop any of you from getting in line for your 2022 gold medal hockey tickets at Quebecor Stadium tomorrow morning at 9 am - rumour has it they will be a hot item.

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