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Letter: Sudbury is not a tourist hotspot and a Kingsway arena won’t change that

What’s more, argues letter-writer David Robinson, city is making a ‘deadly economic mistake’ moving Sudbury Arena out of downtown
A sign near the site of the Kingsway Entertainment District property.

All over North America professional teams talk local governments into building them new stadiums and arenas. It is part of the business model — governments contribute hundreds of millions of dollars so team owners can make money.

Most economists say these investments are foolish. There is little evidence they generate economic growth. There is evidence that, like cities with casinos, cities with professional sports teams tend to have lower per-capita incomes. The number of jobs created is smaller than the number of employees of a mid-size department store, as a rule.

Sometimes a new stadium or arena does contribute to the local economy. It has to attract large numbers of visitors from outside the city. This happens when the city is already a tourist destination.

Sudbury is not a big tourism destination, and an arena on the edge of town will not change that.

Sudbury is unusual in moving its public arena to private developers' land, a move-in order to beef up their land values. While this raised the value of that land, it resulted in decreased land values in other parts of the city.

Sudbury is also unusual in shooting for two big growth-inhibiting, tourism-dependent businesses — a casino and a new arena — at the same time. It is also unusual for locating the two together outside the city core. 

Other cities have been moving their sports teams closer to their city centres because they lose money out in the suburbs. Sudbury has committed to an ongoing subsidy that is likely to grow.

The downtown core generates the highest tax revenue of any district in the city. The core is what gives every city its identity for the rest of the world.  The core is what people see and what attracts new businesses to the region. The current council has abandoned the city's core. It is a deadly economic mistake.

This council has done more than just tear assets out of the city core. 

Everyone knows that if an area stops feeling safe people stop coming. Council has failed to invest in keeping sidewalks clear during snow season and fails to pay to keep the area clean and safe throughout the year. It has tax policies that discriminate in favour of commercial properties in strip malls and shopping centers rather than downtown. 

Under this council there has been a  20-per-cent decline in downtown business.

The decision not to renovate the old arena was an economic mistake and a disastrous planning error. Renovating the old arena would be cheaper. It would generate more economic benefits for the city for every dollar spent. 

The proposed new parking garage would bring more people downtown and boost tax revenue. Leaky water and sewer systems that have to be upgraded would be done as part of the same job, saving more money.

If council's tiny majority is desperate to spend an extra $50 million on a project, it is easy to find investments that will be more productive than subsidizing sports teams for the small fraction of the community that wants to attend.

David Robinson
Greater Sudbury