Facility figures don’t add up

Resident questions the financial viability of a sports facility

As a past marathon runner, I have an abiding interest in sports, especially track and field. Nonetheless, I do not support the proposed sports complex.

In a recent letter in The Morning Star, entitled “Sports facility offers benefit,” the writer states, “A recent Seniors Games generated about 2.5 million in economic activity for the host community.” On the surface, this seems like a pretty nice windfall. However it must be remembered that the Senior Games and the B.C. Summer Games are offered to communities across B.C. and would only come to Vernon every few years.

The $2.5 million pie will be divvied up between scores of local businesses, with the two biggest beneficiaries being the provincial and federal government in the form of PST/GST, numerous gas taxes, alcohol taxes, cigarette taxes, accommodation taxes, and federal and provincial income tax on the profits. So right off the top. we can deduct a minimum of $0.5 million just for taxes.

From the $2 million left, we have to deduct numerous business costs (minus labour), like hydro, natural gas and the cost of goods, most of which would not be produced locally, thereby providing no secondary benefit. Now the pie has shrunk to about $1 million. From the $1 million, we have to deduct what it costs the city (taxpayers), to host the games like extra policing/by-law enforcement, garbage removal, beautification projects, to impress the visitors, and other related expenses.

And these figures don’t take into account the prospective visitors who are not associated with the games, but would have come to the city anyway, only to be turned away because there is no room in the inn.

By the time all of these costs are realized, the net gain to the town could be in the negative or minuscule at best, and there has yet to be any mid to long range benefits created.

Another writer to The Morning Star compared the proposed sports complex to Wesbild Centre and made mention that Wesbild attracts 100,000 people per year including those who use the centre to walk laps. Nevertheless, to compare a centrally located, heated facility to an outdoor sports track on the outskirts of town is comparing apples to oranges. The walkers use Wesbild Centre in inclement weather because it is enclosed and heated. Therefore, they certainly are not going to use an outdoor track as an alternative. Furthermore, when the weather becomes conducive to outdoor walking, the majority are going to use the centrally located, idyllic location called Polson Park rather than drive several kilometres each way to use the not so bucolic sports complex.

Another supporter of the complex suggested we need facilities like these to attract more families to move to the area and that this would reduce the tax load. However, if this argument was true, then populous cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal would have property taxes in the hundreds of dollars per year when in fact this is not the case.

The larger cities most often have tax rates much higher than smaller communities. This is due to expensive infrastructure and the need for more taxpayer-funded, highly-paid employees, such as: police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, city workers, etc.  These highly paid positions are not balanced out by the minimum wage service sector based jobs that higher population bases create.

I would suggest to the small special interest group that is promoting this facility that instead of seeking to saddle the area taxpayers with more needless debt, especially in light of the recent revelation that the City of Vernon has a deficit of $78 million for necessary infrastructure upgrades, that maybe you should consider trying to have the project funded privately. If the facility is considered viable, the investment could be realized through the collection of user fees and be a win-win solution for everyone.

 

M.C. Krien