Stadium plans go further than just football
It’s been the focus of much speculation over the past few months, with people across Saskatchewan wondering about the possibility of the building of a new multi-purpose facility in Regina. This facility, should it be built, will be the new home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, as well as a place for concerts and other events in the Queen City.
But the province seems to be divided on the issue, particularly when looking at the football aspect of the situation. Does Regina need a new stadium? Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field, the current home of the Riders, has been the team’s long-serving stadium for 74 years, and is a fixture in its North Central community.
Rob Deglau, community coordinator for the North Central Community Association, said Mosaic Stadium has been “a bit of an income generator” in North Central. Deglau said people living next to the stadium have the opportunity of making extra cash simply by allowing people to park their cars in their driveways during Rider games and other events held at Mosaic Stadium. On top of that, the NCCA “[hires] 60 people in the neighbourhood to clean up Mosaic stadium of recyclables after hours,” according to Deglau. After wages are paid, the remaining money is used to paint murals in the community, as part of the NCCA’s mission statement to “enhance the quality of life” in North Central.
City Councillor Wade Murray said that there’s a strong division among the residents of North Central – either they’re very for the new stadium, or they’re very against it. “There are people who see it as a good investment,” said Murray, “And there are some who see it in the narrow view as just a home for the Riders. We need a facility that has to operate 24/7, with many more diversities than just the home of the Riders.” Speaking of the team’s role in North Central, Murray said, “The Riders have been a part of this community since the very beginning.”
The proposed location of the facility is in the CP yard south of Dewdney Avenue. The Government of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Pacific Railway reached a conditional sale agreement of the land, as announced on Sept. 7.
“My thoughts [are] that it’s probably the very best location if you’re going to [build a new stadium],” said Murray. “If I think of Saskatoon, their facility is outside of town and that’s a difficult place. Located in the heart of the city means that you’re using existing infrastructure and it will be taking up space that is currently contaminated by its old use and allows building something that isn’t residential.”
Ken Cheveldayoff, the provincial Minister charged with shepherding the project, said the location within the centre of the city was ideal. “It’s not very often that you get a 32-acre parcel of land in the middle of a major city. Mayor Pat Fiacco is very excited about the potential improvements downtown, as well as about improving the current location of Mosaic Stadium. Both the mayor and the city councillors are excited about the redevelopment that could take place.”
Deglau says that for the residents of North Central, having the facility outside of North Central could definitely have its perks. “[A stadium] is one of those buildings that doesn’t fit in a residential neighbourhood. If you look, traditionally, stadiums are downtown. Having a stadium in a residential area isn’t really that great.” One problem faced by residents of North Central is the need to have a sticker on their vehicles showing that they live in North Central, rather than are just parking in the area during an event. “If they have guests over during a Rider game or an event at Taylor field, their friends’ vehicles get ticketed,” said Deglau.
There are more things to be considered, however, than whether or not Regina citizens are in favour of a new stadium. According to a feasibility study conducted in March, the project will cost an estimated $431.2 million dollars. There has been talk of the federal government pitching in as much as 25 per cent of the cost, but as of yet there has been no confirmation. The rest of the funding will be coming from the provincial government, the City of Regina, and the private sector. Already, businesses and corporations have stepped forward to offer their support, with the Regina Hotels Association promising $10 million.
Cheveldayoff has little doubt that the federal government will pull through. “First of all, the federal government has been very good to Saskatchewan, very fair in their funding. When the Prime Minister was in Saskatoon, he said that if they’re going to fund one stadium, they’re going to fund them all. Equally. They’ve been there in the past for us, and will be in the future again.” Still, should the government choose not to contribute, Cheveldayoff said the provincial government will continue looking to build, but will have to consider the financial aspect of the plan again. However, “our Members of Parliament would ensure that we were to get funding equal to what other areas would get.”
Certainly, $431.2 million dollars isn’t pocket change in a country where the federal government is running a deficit. Murray, after stating he wasn’t in a position to make any firm statements on the issue, commented that he wondered if the money couldn’t be better spent elsewhere. “What if our water system or sewage plant were unable to keep up with demand for clean water in our city, [and] we needed $400 million to rebuild [them]? Where does that investment come from? If the federal government is willing to help us out, should the money go to a multi-purpose facility or that basic human need?”
Speaking of finding better places to spend the money, what about getting it into the hands of farmers after a disastrous agricultural season plagued with flooding?
“Well, our economy is growing and our province is growing,” said Cheveldayoff. “Through PDAP (Provincial Disaster Assistance Program) we were able to get funding to those who needed it most. The Government of Saskatchewan contributed the largest agricultural response in the history of the province.”
There’s also the question of what will happen to Mosaic Stadium should the deal go through. Cheveldayoff said, “That’s up to the City. I know Mayor Fiacco has ideas about development, about the need for low-income housing.”
The need for affordable housing in the city is an issue that both Deglau and Murray agreed on.
“Our main concern is that if there’s a void in our neighbourhood, that void needs to be filled with housing, affordable and marketable housing,” said Deglau. “We need new housing and the old housing to be torn down. Moving Mosaic out of North Central would present us that void.” Murray said, “It would be positive for the space to become a prime property for a developer to build good quality homes. For the City, it would become an asset, because at the moment, it’s not a taxable property.
“For those people living next to [Mosaic stadium], it’s not always the best neighbour. There are loud concerts that go through the night, and loud people who sometimes drink in excess and stumble through the neighbourhood.”
It sounds like there are definite changes on the way for Regina, and representatives from a few viewpoints in the city have high hopes for the future.
“Our hope is whatever the political will, there will still be some opportunity for the residents of North Central to be employed at the facility,” said Deglau of the changes on the way. Councillor Murray sees lots of promise regarding the changes as well, considering the new location falls under his ward. Laughing, he told The Carillon, “Wade’s Ward, all the good stuff happens in Wade’s ward.”