As you’ve probably noticed, today is Make It Seven Day on BlackBerry Cool. With all the news in the past 24 hours about Jim Balsillie moving the Coyotes to Hamilton, Southern Ontario, BBCool is doing its best to help the campaign.
Jim Balsillie’s spokesman, Bill Walker, was on a televised broadcast of a radio interview he did with a Hamilton network. Again, I used MyCaption on my BlackBerry 8900 to capture the details so they’re transcribed for you.
[ED NOTE: I started recording in the middle of the conversation, so I had to edit and adjust for that. Also, because this has been edited, accept that at times it is not Bill Walker's exact words.]
The conversation started with the radio host asking for a justification for Hamilton’s government spending.
Bill Walker: It will be entirely up Hamilton to decide what’s best for the city. The city and the city leaders, through their city government, will make their own priorities known to the Province. They will let it be known if this (the Copps Coliseum renovations) ranks highly up on their list and if they think it’s an infrastructure project that brings sustainable returns to the city and business activity over the longer term. Last night, Mayor Eisenberger indicated that they already feel like that’s something that they would want to do.
Radio Host: It’s the city’s call but I guess from Jim Balsillie’s point of view, the contract that he just signed is to eventually move his team into an NHL ready arena because otherwise, why go through the process?
Bill Walker: Exactly, and you know he has committed to spending the money that’s needed to expand and funding it entirely out of his own pocket to get the arena NHL ready, to get the team in there. Now, whether it would be one season or two seasons down the road, that would be left to be determined.
Radio Host: But clearly, if Copps Coliseum is not renovated, it becomes at least theoretically a less attractive place to play NHL Hockey. It would not provide the revenue that most would believe would be necessary in order to sustain the franchise.
So, it is incumbent then upon the City of Hamilton. Do you want to upgrade this arena at whatever cost, some have estimate $120 million to $150 million, within some period of time, in order to accommodate Mr. Balsillie.
Bill Walker: Yes, and that’s exactly what was discussed as we work with the City of Hamilton.
Said agreement in place, should Mr. Balsillie be successful in purchasing the Coyotes and bringing them to Hamilton, we’re looking at the possibility of a 32-year lease here. He is committed to Hamilton in a long term and Hamilton is committed to him to doing the best that they can.
The rest of the year, you’d have this coliseum owned by the city of Hamilton for 300 or so days for Hamilton to derive revenues from. You know, I’m not supposed to say that Mr. Balsillie and the franchise would not derive any benefit from it, and it’s also not to say that those saved to renovation have to be entirely funded through this infrastructure programs, but the program is there. We think that this kind of capital investment qualifies as does all of early indications are the minister of infrastructure and they’re all in Ontario, the premier.
I think the prime minister has made a few comments about it. So, you know, we’re pretty hopefully. I mean, obviously, we’re talking about something that’s pretty far down the line here. We got a big day ahead of us on Tuesday, but the good news is we have a home for the arena. The city was great to deal with and Mayor Eisenberg will do us a lot of credit.
We’re getting on to the fun stuff now, and I know you probably have questions about Phoenix, but I hope that brings a little bit more clarity to the whole situation.
Radio Host: Sure, before we move on, I will say this. I mean, obviously, I continue to have concerns about the spending of tax payers dollars in a project like this, as I have had for many years. Our experiences in this city, of course, as you well know have not been exactly fruitful, and I understand that the company that runs this, their flag ship radio station and television network are now the proprietors of the concrete convertible down on the Lake Shore, which cost tax payers of many hundreds of billions of dollars.
So, you know, and I also thought the federal government recently declared that no longer would they be in the business of providing federal funds for building arenas and stadiums, unless there was a connection to universities, as laid down in their plan, and will bring value to universities, and then subsequently incorporated into the Winnipeg proposal for a new football stadium.
So, the fact is that if federal funding were to come for Copps Coliseum, I think that might require a reversal of form on the part of this government.
Bill Walker: You know, you’d have to ask them. What I can tell you, Bob, is that the arena is already a decent arena. You’ve been in there. Some people think it’s better than some the existing NHL arenas that teams play in now. It is also originally designed to be an NHL arena. So we’re not talking about starting from scratch here.
This is where I stopped recording but you get the idea. The radio host is concerned about the use of tax payer dollars. As we’ve said before, the ROI on a project like this is obvious. Don’t worry Hamilton, you’re in good hands.