Windsor taxpayers will bear most of the costs associated with hosting the December Federation Internationale De Natation (FINA) 13th World Swimming Championships, Short Course, planned for December at the east end arena. The bill could be as high as $16 million.
Costs for the event are mounting.
Internet swimming publication Swim Swam reported February 16 that, “… locally in Windsor the seemingly ballooning of costs associated with hosting the global event is a recurring concern.”
This was further confirmed in the Windsor Star’s March 10 edition in a quote from Onorio Colucci, the city’s chief administration officer. He admitted those involved, “… fully expect to be over (budget) … but no one knows by how much.”
Last summer the city predicted the meet will generate an economic impact of $20 million. This was included in a want ad seeking an operations director which also mentioned the event will be, “… fully underwritten by the City of Windsor.”
When it was announced the city had beat Hong Kong, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates to take on the competition, then mayor Eddie Francis told the media, “… Detroit is going to be helping us get the region ready to welcome the world.”
Since then, it appears Motown has dropped out.
About a year ago, the Star calculated, with all things considered, including a new pool at the arena, the cost at over $21 million. On January 21, this year, city administrators warned the drop in the value of the Canadian dollar might add $3 million more.
If this is the case, the city will spend $24 million for an economic impact of $20 million.
Spending beyond a sporting event’s economic benefit is certainly not unprecedented for Windsor.
On April 1, 2013, the Star reported the International Children’s Games (ICG) had a, “… $2.5 to $3 million budget. [Nora] Romero expects the area should see an economic impact of at least $2 million.”
After the ICG, the city used some off-the-shelf software, in which it inserted the numbers, to argue for a higher impact. However, this was questioned after it was learned the city did not engage a full audit. It is assumed a similar process will be employed for the FINA competition.
The costs of hosting FINA are allegedly so unjustified two other North American jurisdictions recently backed out of hosting an open water event and FINA’s marquis world championship; Lake Magog, QC, and Guadalajara, Mexico, respectively.
Lake Magog raised a particularly important red flag. After it found its chances of attracting private sector advertising were slim, and facing increased costs to host FINA officials, it pulled the plug.
Windsor faces the same situation.
Of the estimated expense of $24 million, offsets include $6 million from senior governments, $1.5 million from FINA, and an expected $800,000 in ticket and advertising revenue.
This leaves $15,700,000 to be covered by Windsor taxpayers. Originally, the cost was said to be about $11 million split among the federal and provincial governments and Windsor. The city’s share would be around $3 million.
It was a high price for dubious results.