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Regina’s mayoral candidates react to stadium plan

Regina’s mayoral candidates are reacting to the announcement of the funding framework for a new stadium.

Current Mayor Pat Fiacco, who is not running again, signed a memorandum of understanding with Premier Brad Wall and Roughriders Chair Roger Brandvold Saturday morning on the $278 million project.

The city will contribute $73 million, plus take out a $100 million loan through the province.  The Wall government has committed $80 million, while the Riders will put forward $25 million.

If approved by city council, construction is slated to begin in 2013, with completion targeted for 2017.

Global News asked all six current mayoral candidates for statements on the agreement.  Five of the candidates responded.

Michael Fougere: 

I support the Regina Revitalization Initiative. The stadium project is the first phase of the larger Regina Revitalization Initiative. The stadium announcement represents a once in a generation opportunity to revitalize the heart of our downtown.  The funding framework represents the best possible deal for Regina taxpayers to fund a new stadium for the Riders and for amateur sport in Saskatchewan. It will also host concerts, conventions, and other major events. I fully support the project that leverages maximum benefits from our partners in the project, the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  We will have a facility to which we can all be very proud.

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Over the next 10 to 15 years, we will see the next phases of the RRI come to life.  Once the new stadium is built at Evraz Place, the current Mosiac stadium site will be developed into a new neighbourhood, which will include much needed housing, retail, commercial opportunities, and parks to meet the growing needs of our city.  We can also look forward to the development of the CP lands that will help build our city.  The RRI is the best example of City Council planning and preparing for growth, to maximize the benefits of our growing city in a sustainable way.

The City of Regina will contribute $73 million toward the cost of the new stadium, while the provincial government will provide an $80 million grant.  The Riders will contribute $25 million as well. The $100 million loan from the province will be repaid over 30 by a $12 facility fee attached to games and events. This means that the large portion of the stadium construction costs will be paid for by those who use the facility, thus reducing the burden on Regina taxpayers.  The funding agreement signed by the parties represents the best possible deal for Regina residents.

Meka Okochi: 

While it is good to finally see some direction on the issue of the stadium, it is regrettable that this new proposal includes no direct investment from the private sector, as we were initially made to understand. Now it is important that the project partners complete their due diligence on this plan, and provide a full transparent picture to taxpayers.  This must include a thoughtful approach that assures Reginans that pressing municipal demands will be adequately met, without the imposition of a growing tax burden on our citizens into the foreseeable future.

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Marian Donnelly: 

As a citizen of Regina, and as a candidate, I’m very concerned with the project moving forward as quickly as they have outlined.  To begin construction in 2013 seems unrealistic, and looks like they are setting us up for the same problems that Winnipeg has had.  In Winnipeg they have literally had to jack-hammer out concrete poured because they rushed the process. 

There has been little consultation with the community regarding the design phase, and by community, I mean the people who will have a role in the facility other than the Riders, including concert producers, amateur sports organizations, conference and event producers, etc.   I’m also concerned that there hasn’t been enough information made public regarding any other options.  My limited experience in the world of construction has taught me that it’s always cheaper to renovate and rebuild than it is to build new.  If the cost-estimate to rebuild the stadium is $100 million less than the cost to build a new one, then why aren’t we looking at that option?  Taylor Field is an historic icon in our landscape, and in the hearts of most Rider fans.  Do we really want to bulldoze it?  The current location is perfect, close enough to our downtown and warehouse district that people can walk from hotels, restaurants and bars. Do we really want to move it to Exhibition Park, where it can compete with the Farm Progress Show for parking? 

And finally, doesn’t it make sense to have a big picture plan in place first?  How are we addressing all of our infrastructure needs, sewage, water treatment, roads, schools, affordable housing, the pension issue, the recreational facilities needs, etc?  I don’t think it should be an either/or situation, where we are either addressing social and infrastructure needs or we’re building a stadium.  I think we need to have a plan in place to deal with all of these issues, for the long term. 

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Liz Brass: 

It’s time to change the status quo of relying on taxpayers and making deals behind closed doors with a few private investors. Many of us are Rider fans and that is why there is such mixed opinion among the public. As I have stated earlier, we don’t have all of the information and we have more urgent needs and priorities (i.e., water treatment plant, pension deficit, infrastructure repairs, and a housing crisis). 

I’m currently researching and consulting with the private sector and other potential partners. We can discuss stadium options that the council has not explored. There are options, so let’s do it right. I will give more information in early fall. 

Jim Elliot: 

The announcement on Saturday shows the outgoing Mayor and Council’s priorities as it relates to fully funding our civic employee’s pensions, building affordable housing for current and future Regina residents and repairing the city’s infrastructure.  All will be underfunded or left to fend for themselves.  Over $300 million will not be spent on what this city needs more than a new stadium; a stadium that we were promised by the Mayor would be entirely funded by corporate donations.