Be good sport on tax relief

SUSAN SHERRING

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Would you help Scotiabank Place survive with millions of dollars in tax relief?

You are whether you want to.

Over the past eight years, the Kanata sports facility has received more than $37 million in tax relief -- benefiting from a special tax category.

Instead of paying $45.8 million since 2000, the taxes coming from Scotiabank total just over $7 million in municipal and education taxes -- a savings of $37.6 million.

And it seems when it comes to helping big time sports with municipal dollars, some taxpayers simply aren't interested.

Call it the Great Divide.

"We the taxpayers own Lansdowne. Second, I am not in a rush or a hurry," wrote one Sun reader.

"A suggestion for city council -- demolish the stadium stands, create a nice lawn, and a monument 'to future generations' and leave it alone; or, sell the site for $1,200,000,000 to the highest bidder with a height restriction of four floors and a noise restriction (Bank St. has been intensified enough). It's about time someone took care of the taxpayer/owner.

"I do not want city council 'negotiating' for me. And the mayor ran a software company not a sports franchise."

COMPETING BIDS

The e-mail is indicative of many received over the past several days with councillors heading toward a major debate this week over giving professional sports a financial push toward reality.

At a joint city committee meeting today, councillors will debate whether Lansdowne Park should include an open-air stadium for pro-football or whether financial help should go to a pro-soccer team near Scotiabank Place.

There's more than a $100 million of taxpayer money at issue.

Of course, councillors won't just be debating which facility deserves municipal support, but whether tax dollars should even be used to further pro sports -- be it a CFL team or a pro soccer team.

And on hand to attempt to influence them will be taxpayers who don't believe their tax dollars should be used at all -- whatever the spinoff benefits.

A team like the Ottawa Senators has both direct and indirect contributions to the community.

Restaurants, transportation, hotels, clothing manufacturers, and food and beverage wholesalers all benefit.

INDIRECT REVENUE

Hockey lovers from both in and out of town will shop, see the sights, and attend other events -- and their purchases in turn create jobs for people who have nothing directly to do with the sports teams.

The Bell Capital Cup, for example, is estimated to bring in more than $5 million in direct returns to the city, over the course of less than one week.

But some argue that the entertainment dollar will be spent -- if not on the Sens, then on something else. And if the Sens weren't in town, the money would go somewhere else.

Marc Rosentraub, a professor at Indiana University and author of the book Major League Loser: The Real Costs of Sports and Who's Paying for It, has suggested that more money is paid out by a city than is taken in.

He's stated that "the presence of a team will generate a certain type of media exposure, but that exposure itself, no matter how satisfying, does not attract firms, make the city safer, or make the workers in the city better paid or educated."

The Great Divide Debate begins this morning at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

SUSAN.SHERRING@SUNMEDIA.CA


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