A $563-million renovation has given BC Place a new roof, more than 54,000 new seats and four giant new video screens – but there won't be a new corporate name to help pay for it all.
In a surprise announcement on Wednesday, Pat Bell, the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, said the government has rejected what many thought was a done deal with Telus Corp., to rename the football and soccer stadium for $35-million.
"We have been in negotiations ... with Telus for quite some time. But in the end we decided the name, BC Place, was more important to retain," Mr. Bell said in a teleconference call.
He said B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the Crown agency that manages the stadium, came forward with a proposed 20-year deal with Telus, but cabinet rejected it because the government wanted the old name retained as at least part of the new name.
Telus, he said, wanted its own name on the building, which looms over the False Creek waterfront in downtown Vancouver.
"In the end both parties felt strongly about their individual positions," he said, adding that PavCo hopes to regain most of the lost revenue by selling individual advertising rights throughout and around the stadium.
"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," he said.
Mr. Bell's statement follows a recent Telus event that was politically notable because of the absence of Premier Christy Clark and other members of cabinet.
In a major announcement last Friday, Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, revealed that his company is investing $3-billion in B.C. over the next three years, including building new corporate headquarters in Vancouver and creating some 1,300 jobs.
NDP Opposition Leader Adrian Dix and several over NDP MLAs were on hand for the announcement, but Ms. Clark's team – which has been pushing job creation as a cornerstone of her government – was not.
A Telus official later explained the Premier wasn't invited because of an "open file" between his company and the government.
While the naming file appears to have now been closed, both Mr. Bell and Mr. Entwistle said there are still talks going on concerning telecommunications equipment installed in BC Place during massive renovations to the 30-year-old stadium. Those renovations were completed late last year.
Mr. Entwistle made it clear in a written statement that his company had badly wanted to name the stadium, which is home to both the BC Lions football team and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, a soccer club sponsored by telecom rival Bell Canada.
"We are deeply disappointed with this decision. It is regrettable," Mr. Entwistle stated. "We believe Telus, our brand and our 25,000 team members and retirees across British Columbia would have been a great partner for one of the greatest sports facilities in North America."
He said the company "will continue to focus on reaching a successful telecommunications agreement with PavCo."
There was frequent speculation in the media last year that a renaming deal with Telus was in the works.
In August, PavCo chairman David Podmore said he expected "an announcement around naming rights and sponsorship" would be coming by mid-September. But nothing materialized.
Mr. Podmore was travelling on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Bruce Ralston, NDP finance critic, said he was surprised to see the government miss out on a deal.
"That's a lot of revenue to give up, and [selling naming rights]seems to be pretty standard commercial practice," he said, noting that the nearby home of the Vancouver Canucks is named Rogers Arena.
The decision seems certain to spark debate in B.C., where the government is cutting back spending, including refusing to give striking teachers a raise.
Dianne Watts, the Surrey mayor who has been seen as a possible Liberal leader one day, was quick off the mark with a tweet that said: "40 Million to name BC Place. Telus Place. Let's do it and put the money into Transportation or Schools or Policing !! I'm in !!"