In Lieu Of A Top Six, Rosie Discusses The Stadium That Never Was

Wednesday afternoon I got a frantic phone call from Stephen Whitworth … there’s a whole bunch of whatever happening concerning the proposed downtown domed stadium in Regina, and since you’re the resident jock, could you post something?

But when I think about the concept of the proposed facility, I think back to a guy I knew who took a kamikaze run for the Saskatchewan Party in 1999 in a north Regina riding. The secret to understanding how the Saskatchewan Party thinks – at least the current level of Sask. Party leadership, he says – is to understand that they have a losers’ mentality. Few of the party member higher-ups have ever succeeded in areas outside the political world – especially in the business world – and, therefore, they blame the policies of the New Democratic Party for their own inadequacies, or for endorsing policies and programs that make economic sense – or would have if they were the ones doing it.

So it will be as the proposed domed stadium project meets its doomed end, probably on my birthday, 1 March (yay me) (Leader-Post). This whole project, in retrospect, looks as if it was planned by second-year university students who were the Saskatchewan jockdom equivalent of Dungeons and Dragons fiends hopped up on Jolt Cola and the fumes from the carpets in their parents’ basement. “Hey, guys! Let’s have a domed stadium! Yeah. Like they do everywhere else!”

So, where do we look at where this project came off the rails? Good gravy, where do you start?

1. Calgary has more corporate head offices than any other Canadian city save Toronto, and has a population (about 1.25 million) – in an area about the size of metropolitan New York – than the entire province of Saskatchewan (1.05 million). And I don’t hear any talk in Calgary about how critical it was for the community to have a domed football stadium. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, built in 1978 and expanded in the 1980s, was designed in such a way that it could be easily domed. So why hasn’t it been domed? What do people in Regina know about the economics of domed stadiums that people in Edmonton and Calgary don’t?

2. Ten years ago, Mayor Fiacco got Regina city council to reverse its long-standing zoning policy to allow Cineplex to move its movie theatres out of the downtown. Suddenly, Cineplex had its theatres in Normanview and the Southland Mall, after arguing for years that Reginans didn’t want to park downtown , or use public transit, to come to the movies. Riddle me this: Reginans and Saskatchewanians won’t brave the wilds of Saskatchewan Drive to go see Hot Tub Time Machine or Jackass 3-D, but more than 30,000 to 50,000 will suddenly magically transport themselves to downtown Regina on game day?

3. This half-billion dollar proposal (that’s what it would have been once you factor the usual cost over-runs and inflation) is for a tenant who has only 10 guaranteed paying dates – one pre-season and nine regular season matches. (Eleven or 12, if you count post-season matches and when the Roughriders host the Grey Cup.) So, what’s going to fill it the other 350-plus days per year? Is Regina’s entertainment market suddenly going to get so big that there will be enough events going through the place to pay its operating expenses, let alone help defray the cost of building such a facility? The inability of Regina REDA, the Saskatchewan Soccer Association, and Ken Chevaldayoff’s office to put together a bid for Regina (and this proposed facility) to host matches for the 2015 Women’s World Cup is all you need to know that all the great promises about how The Facility Will Put Regina On The Map were a crock. The first time I hear Chevy or someone from the Sask. Party government talk about how they didn’t think about submitting a bid and that their research showed that it wouldn’t have worked in Saskatchewan, that will be the sound of these gomers destroying the arguments they have created in promoting this facility.

4. After examining how the provincial and city governments made their P3 funding approach, I seriously wonder whether these guys could organize a two-float parade. No mention was made about how much private sector money was going into the facility – not how much was forecasted, but how much was already on the table. There was no idea about what would be done with the site of Taylor Field – though there has been a lot of talk about using the area for affordable housing, neither the Saskatchewan nor the federal governments have an affordable housing strategy. As well, the federal P3 funding explicitly states that funds wouldn’t be used for facilities that would house professional sports teams.

This certainly isn’t to say that Taylor Field shouldn’t be replaced. Old, not well maintained over the years, and located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, there’s nothing architecturally or historically interesting about it that would merit it being saved as a heritage site. And it’s in such bad shape that if you’re renovating it, you’re pretty much building a whole new stadium. And if you’re building a whole new stadium, you wouldn’t be building it where Taylor Field is now.

The solution is pretty freaking obvious. Build a 250M open air facility, either out by Kramer Tractor or south of Regina (between Rowat and the old Cinema Six Drive in), get it to seat 35K and expandable to 55K for events such as the Grey Cup, with acres of parking around it for tailgate parties, and redevelop the old rail yards into office space. It would have been a smart move for the government, instead of paying big bucks to renovate the Walter Scott building or move SIAST to the former Plains Hospital, to establish campuses on those lands, the way the Alberta government moved Grant McEwen Community College to Edmonton’s old CNR lands in the early 1990s. Having people working and going to school downtown is a better idea to fill up stores and bars than a football stadium that will sit empty all but a dozen days of the year. Too bad the provincial government didn’t think of that.

In the end, Chevy and Fiacco are to the real business world what guys hanging around the gates of the Playboy Mansion or fantasizing about Charlie Sheen’s booze, coke and whores life are to Real Guys who have real girlfriends or wives, and real jobs, not an active fantasy life. The Roughriders and their fans are paying for climbing into bed with those who dream big things, but don’t have the resources, brains, or intestinal fortitude to see their ideas through.

Author: Stephen LaRose

2006 winner of the Canadian Association of University Teachers's Award of Excellence in Journalism for a bunch of prairie dog stuff. Invited into the best homes in Regina. Once.

26 thoughts on “In Lieu Of A Top Six, Rosie Discusses The Stadium That Never Was”

  1. I think you nailed the analysis here, though I don’t agree with your conclusion – I think a downtown outdoor stadium would be super cool. Incorporate Regina’s skyline like PNC park in Pittsburgh (way smaller scale), or pay good attention to visuals (instead of parking for 3/4 tonne trucks) and we’d have a really nice facility. People could grab lunch and walk to the stadium from their offices to watch Rider practice.

    Sticking the new stadium at the drive in location sounds like a recipe for hour long traffic jams.

  2. LRT: Imagine the traffic snarls as everybody insists on driving their cars through downtown Regina to park near the proposed stadium on game day. Then think about the number of people who will say ‘screw this’ and watch the game on TV the first time the Riders lose three games in a row. It will be a considerable number.

  3. …lost me on your new location idea. Football stadium across from the Dewdney Strip = $$$$$$$ for all those businesses.

    Plus, the thing needs to be near bus routes. Just in case you didn’t realize it: people like to get drunk before, during, and after football games. If the stadium is in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to get a lot more people driving drunk.

    Right now people already park downtown or take busses to get near Taylor Field… moving the stadium closer to downtown just makes that work even better.

    The dome idea was a silly pipe dream but a more reasonably-priced facility, in the proposed location, doesn’t seem that bad to me.

  4. I used to think you were on crack about the new location idea, Rosie. But I’ve totally come around to your way of thinking.

    In fact, I think someplace out on the north end, so the location is more convenient for people from Saskatoon, is the way to go.

    I take you point, anon, about the drinking and driving problem but setting up a transit shuttle to wherever on the outskirts a new stadium is could work. It’s been proven with that Walmart shuttle. We didn’t have the resources to add transit service to any new neighbourhoods, but we found them to run a line out to a box store every 20 minutes.

    If we could do it for months for Walmart, I’m sure we could manage the same 10-12 days a year for the Riders.

    As for the $$ for businesses on Dewdney from having a stadium there, I think that’s totally overstating things. I remember the neighbourhoods around Rexall Place in Edmonton being totally sketchy and kind of wastelandish. Same could happen by sticking a stadium in our downtown.

    Problem with stadiums is they’re surrounded by acres of parking. That creates a nasty pedestrian deadzone — people aren’t inclined to walk past or through them to get anywhere else. They benefit the destination they serve and nothing else.

    Also, stadiums are generally designed to have big blank walls on all their sides.

    The only way to remedy that, I’m thinking, is to fill the facility up with street-level services that are in use the rest of the year (which, is what’s planned for here, no?). You do that and you’ve basically set up competition for the businesses on Dewdney (let’s face it, the businesses that would have gone in this new stadium would’ve been things like the Lonestar Steakhouse or Chili’s… basically, big ass chain bars or restaurants), not a draw that will boost their revenue.

  5. Have you ever been to a concert in Saskatoon? Getting out of that parking lot and back into the city after a big show is a frustrating experience, and that’s just for 16,000 or so. People are used to the traffic and parking arrangement at Taylor field…how would a stadium in the railyards be any different?

    Downtown is the answer for a new outdoor facility. It would solve the problem of cleaning up the contaminated land in the railyard and leave some space for other development.

    I’m still holding out hope for a last minute save for a dome, but I realize that’s not likely.

  6. I have always said that oil rich Alberta does not have a dome – what makes us think we have the means to get one? I have known a major player within the Sask Party since he was “knee high” to a grasshopper. He was always full of ideas as long as someone else would pay for it. We have now wasted time on trying to buy a Lamborghini when all we needed was a Chevrolet. Let’s build something practical!

  7. Ahh yeeah. That little write-up there makes me wanna grab a six-pack of Labatt Blue and dance to some Doug & the Slugs, REM, and Northern Pikes. Love it.

    Course the first I read about the dome fantasy was in the L-P.

  8. ‘The Stadium That Never Was’ was one grand all-or-nothing idea peddled by people with no sales or publicity talent.

    Though always against a half-billion dollar stadium, I’m still amazed last year’s million-dollar feasibility study had no 3D animation to wow us, no bird’s-eye fly-around the entire site to give a realistic feel to what could happen.

    They didn’t even TRY to get us on board — only giving us a few badly-drawn 1950s graphics of inside & out, plus the news video-loop of Fiacco & Cheveldayoff pulling the cover off the lego model.

    Now that Plan A is dead, why are there are no Plans B, C, D, E ready to go? The City should have created a crowdsourcing website to have dozens of proposals set to go on March 1.

  9. After much consideration I think Dechene is wrong: Rosie is still on crack with his sprawleriffic stadium location proposal. Aside from that I think be does a great job unpacking this story. I’ve heard his “Conservatives blame the NDP for their inadequacies” theory before and think there’s something to it. He might be being a little needlessly mean to Pat Fiacco, though.

    (And I don’t know if it was a “frantic” pone call. More “whiny”, I’d say.)

  10. See, what I don’t get is, why do I have to endure having a football stadium basically at the end of my street but most of the movie theatres butt up against bald prairie?

    I just want the situation reversed, is all.

  11. Does anyone know of inner-city (or at least within-the-city) sports stadiums that work well? That have a design which incorporates active ground floor uses for the day to day?

    I never one to suggest moving more development/events out to the periphery of the city – but I think the transit issues would need some serious thought to keep something like this in town. More surface parking would not help anyone.

  12. Laura: there have been many built in downtown areas — Skydome, Jacobs Field, Metrodome — but I don’t think you’d call them successes.

  13. anonymous #4 — unless the city and province are also willing to convert Albert and Broad streets, and Dewdney and Sask Drive into freeways, downtown Regina becomes Saskatchewan’s biggest parking lot on game day with the dome plan. Nobody in Regina will take public transit for any reason — the U of R student referendum regarding the U-pass is all the proof you need.

  14. I don’t recall it appearing in anybody’s stadium scheming, but do I not recall that one ancient proposal for rail yard redevelopment included either a new expressway or LRT for the CNR main line, once it was relocated? (And I am aware that the CNR main is staying put for the time being even after the yard is removed.) It would seem that this would be an obvious measure to put onto the table for alleviating traffic for stadium events, even if it wasn’t implemented overnight.

  15. Oh whatever. I think the energy and economic activity generated by a downtown stadium clearly dwarfs that of the downside of parking space. There’s already plenty of parking space in the old Superstore parking lot and a little more would not hurt. That would literally be the least of the city’s downtown design flaws.

    I don;t know of a downtown stadium that HASN’T worked, at least “city planning” wise. Some stadiums are just ugly and impersonal–like the SkyDome and Metrodome–but they’re not failures because they were put downtown. Even if that does kill a little suburban interest in driving all that way, THIS IS REGINA, PEOPLE….a drive downtown is like a drive to the nearest big box/lifestyle complex in a normal-sized sports city.

    Great article, goofy, rhetorical suggestion to build a stadium south of Regina propah.

    As for losers’ mentality and all that, well duh. The new rule in politics is “don;t get below the creepy crawly surface of a politician’s personal or professional life.” The gig’ll be up, and then what’ll we write about?

  16. Umm, Taylor Field is downtown (basically) right now and parking isn’t that bad. Walk a few blocks, I swear it will not kill you. If they did build a stadium, of some sort, at the CP rails site, hopefully they will add some additional onground/underground parking lots to make it a little easier for all, but either way downtown will work (just please, keep it out of the east end, more traffic not needed).

    I’ve heard various arguments for it, but sorry, public transit will never be a significant source of transportation in Regina in the foreseeable future, we’re just too small. Rode the rails and the subway to sporting events in Calgary and New York, extremely convenient, but their situations (stop thinking about Jersey Shore) are totally different, unfortunately.

  17. You know I like you Stephen but damn I don’t agree with you at all on this one.

    First building an open air stadium was pretty much taken off the table when the Government said the next push would have to be fronted by private investors. Not a lot of companies with that kind of cash are dumb enough to invest in a project that will only attract business for 6 months. So open air won’t be happening.

    And your locations suck. No real economic spinoffs in those places. It would just be a football stadium, period. Sitting in the middle of nowhere needing a lot of infrastructure that is already in place in the city. And you think that anybody could sell the public on investing Government cash for that? Not a hope in hell.

    The downtown location would provide more than enough parking within a reasonable walk. And getting out of there would actually be much easier than getting out of TF is now. And two surface streets added to the proposal would help out the downtown congestion that exists now.

    The only location that makes sense is downtown from an economic spinoff point of view. And the only stadium that could attract enough private funds would be an enclosed one.

  18. Seriously though, for those proponents of a new downtown stadium: would you want to live near it? I mean, it’s convenient WHEN a game is on, but what about the 99% of the time it’s empty? I don’t see people flocking to live around Taylor Field and I sure as hell don’t want to walk around that area at night. And even if you live near it, you hate when a game is on since the parking and traffic are all snarled up.

    The only solution for having a downtown stadium would be to make it a destination: add lots of other businesses and offices, mixed with some residential so there are people in the area at all hours, not just during football games. There would have to be direct transit to it, since there wouldn’t be enough parking (unless a parkade was incorporated.)

    I’m not going to waste any more of my breath, but you should really consider picking up a planning book or two – everyone respects an informed opinion. So yeah, Craik Eco-Dome!!!1

  19. All this “economic spinoff” talk and “oh, more parking” groaning has me wondering whether moving the stadium a few blocks to the East will really change these things that much at all. Basically, all you’re doing is taking the current situation, and making it a little more convenient to use EXISTING lots and parkades downtown (which lots of people already use on game day) and shortening the walk to and from the bars and the casino. Also you’re moving OUT of the residential neighbourhood, and INTO a retail and business district. I am scratching my head on why this is a bad idea.

    Saskboy is right though, after the next big economic crash we will need a domed stadium to live…. live IN, that is.

  20. Katie I live 4 blocks from Taylor Field now. So I would have no problem living by a downtown stadium. And I love gamedays. We tailgate in my front yard every game. And 90% of my neighbours don’t mind either. They kind of clued in to the great big stadium when they moved in to the neighbourhood.

    And the proposal for the stadium does make it a destination. And also opens up downtown and the warehouse district to lots of foot traffic. O’Hanlons to McNallys in a 5 minute walk.

    Any other proposal is just a football stadium with no spinoffs at all. So they might save 25% of the upfront costs to get 60% less net benefit to the City.

  21. This fantasy of a dome had to be one of the goofiest ideas ever. Mayor Pat Fiacco and friends tried selling this as multi-function entertainment complex but anyone who dug a little deeper soon realized the “multi” referred only to the number of Rider games played in any given year. The thing would stand empty 90% of the time interrupted only by the occasional monster truck spectacular. Now that’s entertainment. I had to shake my head when Fiacco whined that the feds refused to cough-up the cash yet I never heard him say how much the Queen City was prepared to commit on behalf of its citizenry.
    The private sector?
    Forget about it.
    They’re all in favour of seeing this facility built but contributing, not so much.
    Mosaic is a dump and we need to build a new stadium but one commensurate with our needs not some tax munching white elephant.

  22. At least for myself, I am not totally opposed to having a stadium downtown (provided it fits the realistic needs and means of our city and province).

    I think I’m more focused on having anything that is put on the CP Rail yards be fleshed out and conceived in its entirety. WIth respect to a stadium, I don’t want to see a plan that says “sometime down the line developers will probably want to put some residential in”. I want residential and some added commercial included in the proposed development upfront – that it’s part of the whole package, not an afterthought. That makes it too easy to just become a parking lagoon that people bitch about losing when other uses are proposed.

    I want transit options integrated in what happens there – I don’t wan’t surface parking to be part of the plan. Like many people have said, the situation at Taylor Field is working decently at the moment (with shuttle buses, etc.). With some thoughtful planing and design you could provide efficient access to and from any development in that area (be it a stadium or more office/retail/housing). If it was a stadium, I want to see clear intention and planning to eventually connect with high-speed rail from Saskatoon.

    If there is a stadium built there – making sure that the ground floor is active year round (shops, restaurants, etc) would be essential to keep it from being unsafe and just another area that people avoid on non-game days.

  23. Interesting take on the stadium, it was a fun read. I disagree with most of it, especially the argument about building the stadium on the outskirts of the city. I think after the debacle with the CUC in Stoon, most would learn that that is the last place the new stadium should be built. And how would traffic for the stadium at the CP railyard be any different than traffic from the current stadium? I look forward to the new open air stadium at the CP railyard.

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