(WINDSOR, ON) – Rumours heard at some coffee shops, they know who they are, seem to have a way of rising to the surface as fact, in the city common sense relegated to the food bank line. It seems to be happening with the one about the city losing millions to host its new FINA friends for a small wingding down at the arena next year.
The amount of money to be lost could end up forcing City Council to implement a 4% tax increase on unsuspecting regular folk.
This rumour was, for all intents and purposes, confirmed by the local paper on November 18, when it talked about a $13.3 million shortfall between what the city can collect, with its so-called zero tax increase scheme, and what it needs to operate next year.
Much of the difference lies in arbitration payments to firefighters and police and should not be a big surprise.
It is also kind of, in a not so good way, odd that the $13 million is probably not even close to what some are expecting to be lost at the FINA event. This, despite the city thinking its upside cost will be $3 million, which is still well beyond what it can afford.
So far, costs are inching along at about $21 million and are expected to rise, as they always do, as the event gets closer to reality.
The budget does include a small pool at the east end arena, that is not needed because it will be competing with the new YMCA pool down the street which, by the way, will pay property taxes.
The budget also includes a few million, but less than expected, from the two senior levels of government. But, that is taxpayer money as well.
The rest of the money will have to come from sponsors. It is doubtful the city will find enough companies wanting to bankroll a FINA event that is scheduled to run at the same time as the famed Swimming USA’s Speedo Winter Junior Nationals.
If one listens to journalist Craig Lord, writing in SwimVortex.com on December 15, 2014, there are considerable signals the sponsorship money the city expects to wring out of sponsors might not be there.
From his viewpoint, while, “… the market for sports viewing and reading is massive – swimming has a relatively small percentage of that market on a regular basis and even on the major occasions to some extent.”
Lord is casting earnest doubt that a large audience exists for swimming. This is particularly concerning because sponsors are, in what is known as transverse orientation, attracted to huge viewing audiences like moths to light bulbs.
There are other issues the city should have considered before even dealing with FINA. Lord hints its modus operandi is to, “… find hosts for events that demand ever-growing budgets, …” and seems to have found a nice sucker in the once rosy city.
The trend, apparently, suggests Lord, is for FINA to hold, “… swimming in places with little or no tradition of swimming – and no audience to bring to the party.” He adds, rather alarmingly, the search seems to be on for, “… hosts who will pay for swimming even if the crowd doesn’t show and ticket sales are paltry.”
Some pundits wonder how ineffective councillor, and now interim mayor, Drew Dilkens could have missed this, given how quickly after the 2014 election he went on a boondoggle trip, spending thousands of dollars and a week of his time, to observe last year’s short course in Doha, Qatar.
Lord writes about his colleagues attending the competition, who, “… reported in columns far and wide, that the audience was all but non-existent in heats if you take out of the sum the school kids bussed in to fill the seats (and, yes, be inspired, of course) – and was not much better in the evenings.”
Was Dilkens so blinded by the glitz of being on the world stage that he missed this entirely? Or, is it simply nothing will stop him from wildly spending taxpayer money on what seems a rather dubious event?
Obviously, if Windsor councillors want to make sure there is no tax increase, the solution is simple. Drop the FINA event and offer to put up a borrowed screen at the arena to show the Speedo Winter Nationals to at least gauge local interest in swimming events.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.