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Today at 13:25

Playing it safe?

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
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The failure of the American Hockey League in Abbotsford, B.C. has little bearing on the City of Thunder Bay’s pursuit of the Winnipeg Jets primary farm team, says Mayor Keith Hobbs and city manager Tim Commisso.

On Tuesday, Abbotsford officials announced they were severing ties with the Abbotsford Heat.

The buy-out, which came five years into a 10-year deal the city signed with the team, cost the western Canadian community more than $5.5 million. Abbotsford taxpayers had also subsidized the team to the tune of $5.1 million, a guaranteed income deal that ensured the municipality would cover any attendance shortfalls.

Asked if the city of Thunder Bay planned to sign a similar type deal with True North Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Jets, Commisso said absolutely not.

“No,” was his one-word initial response.

Commisso went on to say Thunder Bay and the Jets are both doing their due diligence, that no deal has been signed and locally they plan to do things right.

That wasn’t the case in Abbotsford, he said.

“Abbotsford built their facility first with 7,000 seats and then needed to get a tenant, so they agreed to cover the Heat’s losses beyond a certain level. They were also only averaging about 2,500 fans, maybe less,” Commisso said.

“That won’t be the case in Thunder Bay and that is also why we are looking at 5,700 seats, maximum.”

It didn’t help that the Heat were the primary farm-team of the Calgary Flames, a hated rival of the nearby Vancouver Canucks.

Hobbs said there won’t be any sweetheart deals made with any potential tenants, be it True North Sports and Entertainment or another group.

He also pointed out neither side has made a firm commitment to the other.

The Jets have announced they will be pulling their farm team out of St. John’s, N.L., where they averaged more than 6,500 fans per night, citing travel distance as the main reason. They are a partner in Thunder Bay Live, Thunder Bay’s preferred partner for the yet-to-be-approved, $100-million event centre slated for the city’s downtown north core.

But there are no guarantees the AHL club will ever land in Thunder Bay.

“We haven’t signed any deals with the Jets or an AHL franchise. They’re not even committed to coming here yet. They’re doing their due diligence. They’re a part of the Thunder Bay Live group, but no contracts have been signed,” Hobbs said.

Would the city consider an incentive-laden deal to lure a team to Thunder Bay?

Like Commisso, Hobbs said not a chance.

“It’s going to have to be affordable and sustainable, that whole project, right from building the event centre to who our partners are going to be. We’re not signing any sweetheart deals just to attract someone here,” he said.

The city plans to apply for money to pay a portion of the event centre’s cost through the federal government’s $14-billion Building Canada fund. Thunder Bay has set aside about $22.5 million to cover some of its share of the cost through Renew Thunder Bay.


 

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Comments

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Marak says:
"Little bearing" huh...

Tell that to my tax bill in say 5 years time... :(

Will Commisso or Hobbs send me a personal check to cover my tax increase for their "legacy" project...?
4/16/2014 1:40:08 PM
Who-cares says:
Just who is "Thunder Bay Live"? Also what's with all the secrecy revolving around this whole event centre? It all smells of yet another back room deal.
4/16/2014 1:55:24 PM
S Duncan says:
If I could actually trust Commisso and Hobbs that story might be a little more reassuring than it is.

Im sorry, but after Horizon and their secret "sweetheart" deal that was achieved all behind closed doors and off limits to the public...

...I don't trust either of these guys. You made your bed guys, if you want to earn trust from the people of Thunder Bay, you've got a very long road ahead of you.

Thanks for the story though Newswatch! You saw a valid question and you pursued it. Again, good job!
4/16/2014 1:56:28 PM
smartguy83 says:
You may not trust them but a whole lot of us do. Not worth arguing whether you are right or wrong because you are entitled to your opinion.
4/16/2014 3:52:31 PM
S Duncan says:
You shouldn't pretend to speak for people.

That said. I have no valid reason to trust these people because of their past doings. Those are undeniable, and they caused that distrust completely by their own doing.
4/16/2014 4:29:19 PM
S Duncan says:
Writing that story must be like navigating a minefield by now Leith. You write one wrong thing and people from everywhere (including me) will jump all over it.
4/16/2014 2:04:01 PM
Leith Dunick says:
We're trying to get the answers to the questions people are asking, and this story came straight out of the comments being made on this site. And it was an obvious follow-up given the events of yesterday in B.C.
4/16/2014 3:51:11 PM
Tbay Fan 1 says:
Bring Change Thunder Bay, We need it
4/16/2014 2:05:49 PM
S Duncan says:
We have lots of barely manageable debt as it is. We have a large unsold out arena that loses money every year already.

The only change is more taxes, less parking, more debt, more welfare for businesses.

Is that the change we need?
4/16/2014 3:00:35 PM
signman says:
Ramming this Event Centre down the throats of city taxpayers without a direct vote will end up being another Abbotsford. A big mistake by the lake. As the Chamber of Commerce stated recently " taxes will reach alarming levels if municipal spending continues to increase at the current rate"
4/16/2014 2:14:41 PM
taekat says:
Abbotsford held a referendum for the Events Centre - the city chose - albeit by a small margin but they did choose the Events Centre. I was part of Abbotsford and voted for the Events Centre as well. Needless to say, best-case scenario should always be accompanied by worst-case scenario. In hindsight, I felt that if we had real hard numbers we may not have voted - however the carrot still may have been too big for people to say no too. The truth of the matter is that Abbotsford did not need an Events Centre but they really wanted to become their own city. When your 60kms from Vancouver - it's hard to compete. While Thunder Bay isn't 60kms it is 600kms from Minneapolis and 700kms from Winnipeg.
4/16/2014 6:00:23 PM
reese says:
As of this week the city of Glendale is going to negotiate with the native band about a casino they have spent millions of doolars fighting it in court for fear of loosing revenue folm the Coyotes and Cardinals
550 million debt for Coyotes who nows how much for the Cardinals
Revenue from the natives expected to be 300 million
The only thing they can do different is to get paid up front for the buildig and operating costs buy whoever wants it
We all know were Detroit is today
4/16/2014 2:15:27 PM
fastball says:
Glendale?? Seriously?
Let's compare apples to apples here. You're talking NHL here.
As for Detroit - you DO remember the recession, right? The auto-makers going through tough times? I didn't hear anything about a single building causing any problems in Detroit.
Both places' issues have NOTHING to do with a local event center. Get real.
4/16/2014 4:04:41 PM
S Duncan says:
Detroit is a valid comparison. Once a great city that flourished with industry full of blue collar, union workers with a 1% unemployment rate, it is now on the rocks.

The unions killed the jobs, the product suffered, and unemployment skyrocketed. Other places produced better products without all the constraints that a blue state like Michigan holds onto. Its population first became stagnant, then began to drop... and rapidly.

No amount of welfare could fix it. No amount of "revitalizing" their downtown could fix it. No stupid Robocop or Fist statues could fix it.

Today its a haven for crime, murder, and crumbling infrastructure. The police don't even come anymore unless theres a murder in progress. The roads have been neglected all while corrupt city councils have stolen money for pet projects and their peers.

The money spent on Cobo Hall and Joe Louis arena and parking structures was all in vain.

the city continues to crumble despite federal welfare.

so yes, its apple to apple.
4/16/2014 4:37:14 PM
fastball says:
Nope...I'm pretty sure the seeds of urban blight were planted when the automakers decided that in order to make even MORE money (like 4 billion annually wasn't enough) - they'd outsource manufacturing to places where they'd only pay a fifth of what they paid in labour previously. Where new factories were built FOR THEM (welfare factories??) as incentives to move to that area. Nope...they moved so they could engage in the perfect capitalistic panacea - where labour supply far outweighs demand. Where workers will cheerfully work for pennies. Blame the hubris of not realizing that the Asians were far surpassing American products in reliability and price point.
By constraints - do you mean worker safety or fair pay?
People had moved to the suburbs to get out of the city...and now the suburbs were wastelands because the jobs went.
While the unions may have had their day in the 60's and 70's - those times were long gone. Don't blame yesterday for today's problems.
4/16/2014 5:57:44 PM
Samoa Joe says:
Aldo Ruberto said millions of tourists dollars will be coming into Thunder Bay when the event center is built. Why did Abbotsford turn their back on all those millions of tourist dollars by buying out the contract of the Heat Aldo? It is exactly like the CBC article stated and the independent studies have shown. Those numbers are greatly exaggerated how event centers are supposed to benefit a city.
4/16/2014 2:26:58 PM
smartguy83 says:
Like the article said...they were subsidizing losses. Our city will not agree to doing so. This will help mitigate the risk.

You can't pick one cities failure and assume it will happen everywhere. There are many successfully run farm teams.
4/16/2014 3:55:18 PM
arjay says:
remember when "aldo" and His council partners said Busloads of Tourists would be lining up at the OLG?
NEVER HAPPENED!!!! A civic election, cannot come soon enough. A Whole new Council should be voted in. Administration needs some adjusting also!!
4/16/2014 2:40:07 PM
Leith Dunick says:
Point of clarification: Aldo Ruberto was not a member of council when the Casino was being debated or built.
4/16/2014 3:53:02 PM
Enquirer says:
Leith, be a gentleman and offer arjay some Aloe vera for that burn.
4/16/2014 5:40:48 PM
chezhank says:
“City Council has authorized City Administration to negotiate a non-binding letter of intent(LOI) to form a partnership with a consortium called Thunder Bay LIVE!, which will allow the City to move ahead with the facility's development. Thunder Bay LIVE! was selected after a Request for Expressions of Interest process, which is part of Phase 3 of the event and convention centre project. The letter will be presented to City Council prior to April 14.”
When I emailed the city manager,council,mayor and clerk asking if a LOI has been presented ,non have responded in their pursuit of this Mistake by the Lake.
4/16/2014 2:44:47 PM
smartguy83 says:
Uhoh! It's April 16th! better panic the presentation is 2 days late!

I bet you have never had to change a deadline at work, right?
4/16/2014 3:56:52 PM
fastball says:
Why haven't the city responded?? Because they've probably set up a filter on their email that directs all incoming mail from you to their Delete file.
4/16/2014 4:01:19 PM
Richy says:
Well you nay sayers better get your pots and pans together. All 30 of you and head down to city hall hope there's room for all of you.
4/16/2014 2:54:22 PM
yqtyqt says:
"It’s going to have to be affordable and sustainable, that whole project, right from building the event centre to who our partners are going to be. We’re not signing any sweetheart deals just to attract someone here,”

That depends on ones definition of affordable and sustainable. Taxpayers have heard this pie in the sky dream before. The community auditorium would be self supporting. Victoriaville will be self supporting. Timmy's own beginnings, the Canada Games Complex, was not going to cost a penny to operate.

So please Timmy/Hobbs, can you define this sustainability for us taxpayers who have been burned far too many times.

What a pile of garbage! If the spin-doctors want to sell this as an AHL destination, then let them put up the money and a long term contract backed by securities to back this dream.

I would bet that this facility would be empty more days than not. Just like other facilities around the rest of Ontario along the 400 series highways.
4/16/2014 3:03:52 PM
tiredofthebs says:
Time to turn the propaganda machine off. The sky is not falling. The "Event Center" has absolutely nothing to do with the AHL team. As it's clearly stated, Abbotsford built an arena and had no tenant. They then struck a deal (a very bad one) to lure a tenant in. That was their mistake.......No where does it say building the arena was the cause of them handing over 10 million dollars. Pick your fight, is it a hockey rink you don't think we need? You're wrong. The Gardens is well past its prime. Probably the worst small to mid-size hockey venue I've been to. Is it an events center that we don't need? You're wrong. Concerts....number 1 priority. Decent venue that holds enough ticket buyers to make a tour stop worthwhile. Location: is the marina not your desired choice for a venue? Too bad, deal with it. walk 3 blocks from your parking spot to your seat. quit grasping at straws...there will be plenty of handicapped parking for the persons that require it.
4/16/2014 3:05:03 PM
robert Bob says:
The Event centre will sit idle approx 40 % of the year. This is FACT, when take in account any other city across Canada not in a MAJOR market. Sault Ste Marie Essar center was busy 134 days with events other than Hockey. They lose money each and every year. Cost to operate facility is much greater than revenue it produces. This is FACT,There s not a single politican who is accountable when spending other peoples money. Tax and Spend is all they know. Not one of them anywhere could run a business and be profitable. Its no different in Tbay. Build it and its going to lose money. The big question will be how much per year , per taxpayer over how many years. It will be good for Thunder Bay, just like every other city across the country.
4/16/2014 3:48:47 PM
robert Bob says:
The 5 yr avg attendance in Tbay for the Jets AHL team will be approx 1500 per night. They are getting 6500 per night avg in St Johns. It won't really matter how the "spin doctors" cook the projected numbers this will be another "Great White Elephant" for Thunder Bay Taxpayers. Lets build a field of dreams, lets build more parking garages. The tax payers will be on the hook for at least 45 million all said and done , plus the yearly operating losses, which will me higher Mill rates, Lets Tax all the business as well more to help off-set this grandur dream. Oh wait what about the spin off revenue, addtional tourism, maybe the Ring of Fire will contribute to offset the losses. Hell the smart move for the City would be to sell off Tbay Tel, collect 450 million, invest 350 million over 20 years and pay off the "event centre" in whole with the 100 million if its such a good deal. Event parking I'm estimating 20.00 to park near the centre will bring in lots of revenue.
4/16/2014 3:37:13 PM
smartguy83 says:
Good job coming up with random attendance figures based on absolutely nothing? Do you want a cookie?

I'm pretty sure the LU Thunderwolves do better than that for a significantly worse brand of hockey.

I have seen maybe 5 LU games in my life. I will be getting season tickets for an AHL team if it happens.
4/16/2014 3:58:54 PM
Leith Dunick says:
I want a cookie...
4/16/2014 4:01:46 PM
S Duncan says:
Hopefully not one the taxpayers have to buy for you? :)
4/16/2014 5:43:17 PM
Sudbury Yahoo says:
I think if you sign a binding agreement with a consortium that owns and supplies the team, operates the arena for the city and does all the design and construction work, I think you're pretty safe.
You kinda have the bases covered.
4/16/2014 3:51:01 PM
Meta says:
Don't forgot to build the monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Watch the old Simpson episode to see the reality and parity to Thunder Bay
4/16/2014 3:57:29 PM
Dan Dan says:
These comments are getting completely out of hand. We have several users that are using this community discussion place to bludgeon home their minority opinions. We need a max. comments per article implemented if we're going to have meaningful discussion.
4/16/2014 4:18:38 PM
S Duncan says:
in that article Danny Williams says that the Jets organization claims Thunder Bay was the preferred "bidder" for the hockey franchise.

Just what did we "bid" and promise for?

Who's lying here? The great, cant do no wrong (as the leftys claims) Danny Williams, or our own backwater untrustworthy city officials?
4/16/2014 5:01:35 PM
bttnk says:
As an FYI to everyone. Abbotsford is about 45 minutes southeast of Vancouver. Almost no one goes there to "visit" and they have difficulty attracting "events" with so many options in Vancouver. Abbotsford would have benefited from having implemented the phased process that Thunder Bay City council is following when they built their event centre. Thunder Bay on the other hand, shouldn't have to compete with any other cities within close proximity.
4/16/2014 4:38:27 PM
signman says:
Drive down to the marina and check out the
BIG HOLE!
This is where the phantom hotel is supposed to have been built about how many years ago! What's the hold up?
Is there a secret deal that the Event Centre must be guaranteed to be build at the Water Street Bus Terminal site before any more work is done on this hotel?
4/16/2014 4:53:55 PM
Wolfie says:
No. But thanks for asking.
4/16/2014 5:25:19 PM
fastball says:
"Slated to open in 2015.." as per their press release.
Geez, guys - not everything you don't understand is a conspiracy. When you hear hoofbeats - maybe just assume it's horses....not wild zebras.
4/16/2014 6:02:54 PM
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