To stay or not to stay. To build or not to build. To help or not to help.
Those are the basic three issues the Calgary Flames need to figure out soon and let their fans enjoy hockey instead of wondering if there is going to be a team to watch.
If you are not a hockey fan then you likely are blissfully unaware of the war going on between the Calgary Flames and local government, specifically newly re-elected Mayor Nenshi.
It all has to do with the building of a new rink for the Flames as the current one is just not up to snuff. It’s a fair enough statement.
Who was going to pay for what started this little tussle and the Flames pulled out the lame card of moving to another city.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commish who works for the owners, dropped that little nugget as Nenshi was campaigning to sit in his office at city hall for another term.
Ken King, the Flames president and CEO, then got into a little mind games war with the mayor but denied the timing of this was not political. Yep, and the Pope isn’t Catholic.
Some members of the Flames staff took to Twitter to urge people to not vote for Nenshi. No politics involved there right?
The team also dropped the well used phrase of having a huge economic impact on the city of Calgary.
Well, for the most part that is just not true and here’s why.
According to a study done a few years back the average annual revenue of an NHL franchise is $70 million dollars. Sure does seem like a lot but don’t forget players, coaches, staff and part time workers at the rink get paid from that pool of money.
Now if you need some scale, back in 2003 the average annual sales figure from your basic Costco was $113 million. I don’t recall them asking for taxpayer money to build a new store due to their economic footprint.
A study done in 2014 showed the economic impact on the local economy of the St. Louis Cardinals was 0.3% and the New York Yankees was 0.03%. Those are two very strong MLB franchises and they barely make a dent.
Now initially there would be some economic activity with the building of the rink and maybe some fans might buy season tickets in the first two or three years but then it will revert to a dull roar economically speaking.
So what about the “I’m going to take our puck and leave” scenario?
Well a study done from 1958 to 1993 comparing ten cities with stadiums and ten without concluded there was no net economic increase in the cities where a stadium existed.
The studies showed people who spent their money at a sporting event would spend it elsewhere in the community if the team wasn’t there. A majority of those who worked at those buildings would likely find employment elsewhere.
There is no doubt a pro sports franchise has some impact, especially when it comes to players helping local charities. It’s not a strong enough reason for taxpayers to foot a large part of the bill though. If the Flames brain trust really held the “help the community” mantra close to their hearts than the guilt trip happening now wouldn’t be happening.
Personally, I don’t think sports franchises should have public money helping them build. That money would easily have more of an impact on the population if used for roads, hospitals and education for example.
So if I was Mayor Nenshi, I would hold my cards tight to the vest and let the Flames make the next move but it better be a good one. The city has pocket aces in my mind.