Stadium? Another $2 million… Oops…

The news it was news to HRM Councilor Steve Streatch is hardly comforting.

If Halifax becomes one of the host cities for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (limited edition/no major games), it turns out we won’t just be on the hook for a $60-million stadium to hold the games.

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There’ll also be a $2-million “operational fee,” payable to the Canadian Soccer Association, plus a $250,000 in-kind contribution, plus—there’s always more pluses—another $900,000 if we play the genial hosts for FIFA’s 2014 tune-up event.

When a reporter asked him about all this last week, Streatch—who had just voted in favour of spending another $275,000 on next-phase feasibility studies to determine whether the stadium scheme makes sense—said he, uh, hadn’t known about those added costs.

“Really,” he said, “it’s unwelcome news.”

Really?

On Dec. 7, 2010, Council decided to pursue its bid for the 2015 FIFA event despite an Events Nova Scotia report recommending against it because “timelines do not allow for proper due diligence on venue feasibility, public input or funding partnerships.”

At the time, Grant MacDonald, the Trade Centre’s Director of Major Events, told councilors voting yes also “implies” a willingness to find an extra two-and-a-quarter-million bucks to support the tournament.

Though it may not have been written across the sky in flashing hot-pink neon, those extra costs were explicitly laid out yet again in a Feb. 8, 2011 staff report to council.

That Streatch wasn’t aware of this “unwelcome news” before really isn’t anyone’s fault but his own.

But the lack of honest consideration of all the cost implications of bidding for events like the FIFA tournament is symptomatic of a larger, rose-coloured-glasses, glass-almost-full, be-happy, don’t-think-twice-it’s-all-right syndrome that continues to affect—and infect—politics in this city.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games bid? Just say yes! Concerts on the Common? Don’t ask too many questions. A new convention centre? Who needs an independent cost-benefit analysis? A 10,000-seat stadium? Moncton has one. We want one too!

None of this is to suggest any of those schemes weren’t worthy dreams, or worth pursuing.

Who knows? Maybe building a new stadium makes  sense. But the way we’re going about it—and other projects—doesn’t.

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Copyright 2011 Stephen Kimber, Website

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