While Windsor spends some $21 million of taxpayer money to host a couple thousand foreign swimmers, the much wiser Hamilton city council welcomed 80,000 visitors on the weekend of March 25 and spent nothing.
How did the city do it?
Simple. A promoter booked singing sensations Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood to do a number of shows over four days at the FirstOntario Center. The arena, once known as Copps Coliseum, can accommodate 19,000 spectators.
Windsor’s arena is painfully smaller and will have less than 5,000 swimming enthusiasts, if they all come, within its building for the very costly FINA short swimming event in December.
Some of its spectator seats and the rink boards will actually be removed to accommodate a pop-up pool. This is despite the city having a multi-million dollar Olympic pool downtown.
The city’s aquatics centre was supposed to transform the core, but proved to be so insignificant it was ruled out quite quickly as the venue for the FINA event.
Building a pool too small for even minor events attests to the short sightedness of the city’s council. It also, politely, begs the question, “Who is smarter, the inwards on Windsor’s council, who are prepared to splash $21 million on foreigners or Hamilton’s council who will enjoy the benefit of good music from a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and keep the city’s coffers intact?”
Another aspect of this mess is Windsor showing itself to be so starved for recognition, or even attention, it accepts the role of sucker so it can be the sugar daddy financing these swimmers and their FINA entourage.
Why doesn’t FINA do its own financing? Better still, why doesn’t FINA hire a private sector promoter and get out of the way?
Nashville-based Varnell Enterprises produced the Brooks event. Founded by the late, famed university basketball coach Lon Varnell, it is one of America’s leading promoters. Varnell himself was recognized as a master of bringing to the world both athletic and entertainment events.
It is odd that a promotion company with athletic experience as part of its history would not jump at the opportunity to promote a FINA event. Is it simply because the Varnell company is a for-profit operation?
The fact that FINA relies on star-struck municipalities and despotic sheiks suggests its events are simply not attractive enough to capture the attention of a promoter.
Varnell is in the business of making money. It would not seem logical for it to put up $21 million, as Windsor has, with no guarantee of a significant return, despite the fact some two billion will be watching.
The mayor, Drew Dilkens, who pompously made the claim has yet to supply taxpayers with any documentation such as the kind of evidence event sponsors would use to gauge the value of a sponsorship.
One thing is known. Quebec’s Lake Magog dropped out of hosting a FINA open water event last year because, among other reasons, it doubted it could find sponsors.
Obviously, Windsor’s politicians are so removed from reality they toss caution to the wind and gleefully show their willingness to spend millions for a few days of dubious glory at considerable taxpayer expense. Only in Windsor and, apparently, never in Lake Magog.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.