Thursday, April 9, 2009
NDP Angling to Cancel Retractable Roof Plans for BC Place
Based on online caucus statements and party advertising launched in late February, the BC NDP appears to favour scrapping plans for a retractable roof at BC Place stadium.
“It's not explicit in the election platform release today, but they’ve made it clear in a series of pre-election trial balloons what their preference would be and that’s to scrap the plans for a retractable roof and proceed with a simpler replacement fixed roof,” said TEAM 1040 sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht, who will discuss the issue Thursday at 4 p.m. on Pratt & Taylor with afternoon show co-hosts Dave Pratt and Don Taylor. “And if they proceed with that position, it’s not only wonky politics but it’s wonky economics.”
The retractable roof is part of a comprehensive renovation plan announced last May and priced out at $365 million by BC Pavilion Corporation in January. Upgrades to the 26-year-old domed stadium, originally built in 1983 to coincide with Vancouver’s hosting of Expo 86, include new seating, improved washrooms, concessions and concourse amenities, corporate suites and exterior design elements, all of which are scheduled to be completed in time for Vancouver 2010. BC Place will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Winter Games February 12, 2010 and February 28, 2010.
Mayenknecht suggests the position of the provincial NDP on BC Place is a classic example of politicians using a high-profile sports property or issue to make a political statement; and in this case, he believes it’s a highly-questionable statement at best.
“They appear to be using BC Place to position social spending, health care and their so-called larger public interest over stadium spending and so-called narrow interests,” said Mayenknecht. “It has the potential to foster the divisive politics of Vancouver against the rest of the province which in itself makes it questionable public policy. But the real red flag gets raised for me on the simplistic, wrong-headed economic argument they seem to be preparing to sell in the upcoming May 12th election.”
Mayenknecht, the host of The Sport Market on TEAM 1040 and team1040.ca Saturdays at 9 a.m., believes the NDP is overly-simplifying the economics of the proposed renovation and has fallen into the trap of looking at only one side of the project: Its costs.
The roof, estimated to account for up to $200 M of the overall renovation plan, will be installed sometime in the spring of 2011. It is modeled after similar retractable roof upgrades showcased during the 2006 FIFA World Cup of soccer in Germany, most notably Commerzbank Stadion in Frankfurt. The interior upgrades are expected to cost at least $65 M. The renovation also includes a seismic upgrade valued at approximately $43 M. The balance will be spent on exterior upgrades and other renovations designed to extend the life of the stadium for at least another 20 years.
“The first issue I have is how they’re spinning the cost of the retractable roof as 365 million dollars and how they’d replace that ‘Lamborghini’ with a ‘Honda’ in the form of a new fixed roof,” explained Mayenknecht, who projects the actual net difference would be more in the range of $125 M to $150 M. A new fixed roof would cost around $50 M but would not generate nearly the same amount of event dates, attendance and economic spin-offs.
“The retractable roof is certainly the more expensive option, but what it does is completely change the dynamic for BC Place in terms of high-impact sports and entertainment events, not to mention a more attractive platform for conventions in the spring, summer and fall,” he said. “BC Place with a retractable roof would likely generate close to $100 M in spin-off economic impact in an average year and more when special events such as the Grey Cup are factored in. The project could return its investment to the community-at-large in less than four years, cover the costs of the more expensive roof in less than two years and fully pay back the investments of PavCo and the provincial government in well less than a decade.”
Mayenknecht also said BC Place represents a shovel-ready economic stimulus project, making it even more justifiable in 2009 than it was in early 2008. He also suggests the NDP would be inviting significant complications and costs in connection with the Vancouver MLS franchise slated to begin play in 2011 under the new retractable roof at BC Place.
“The retractable roof, which in itself is a device to create a fan-friendly lower bowl seating configuration of 20,000, was central to the Vancouver MLS expansion bid,” he noted. “And both the Whitecaps FC and BC Lions are already selling season ticket packages based on having the new roof in place in two years. It would be a nightmare for the two professional franchises to step back from those commitments, especially the new MLS club.
“It’s beyond me as to why the BC NDP would even consider such an anti-sports development platform given the proven economic, social and health benefits of a sports and active living agenda for young people,” said Mayenknecht. “I’m sure there will be tens of thousands of sports fans, in particular those close to soccer and football, in the Lower Mainland ridings who will take a close look at this position before voting in May.”
PavCo estimates that the full renovation and retractable roof plan will generate $100 M in annual economic activity, cause savings in energy costs associated with a fixed air-supported roof and create more than 2,000 jobs. Government officials have reported that 300 people are already working on-site on the initial phases of the renovation.
Estimates for the economic impact of an MLS franchise playing at BC Place are in the $25 M per annum range. The BC Lions could drive $35 M to $40 M annually with the increased attendance projected from a retractable roof. The 2011 CFL Grey Cup would generate at least $75 M (based on results from the last hosting in 2005).
Mayenknecht, a former sport management and marketing executive in circles such as professional tennis and the National Basketball Association, holds post-graduate degrees in political science and public policy. He is a principal in Emblematica Brand Builders, a Vancouver-based business development and communications consultancy.
-Courtesy TEAM 1040
Mike Farnworth of the BC NDP will be live on The Sport Market on TEAM 1040 on Saturday, April 11th, 2009 to talk about their position re: BC Place. The Sport Market begins at 9 am PT. Farnworth will be on at 9:30 am. listen live at http://team1040.ca/