BC Place

BC’s crony capitalism in action

This item was first published March 17 but is worth reviewing because it fits with Thursday’s post, Patronage and private privilege – BC Liberal P3.

It is apparent that Christy Clark and her Minister of Graft and Corruption believe no rules constrain them. Even when a senior public official like Michael Graydon is determined to have offended standards of good conduct, his former colleagues pretend surprise, avert their eyes and walk away saying, “Nothing can be done.”

What they really mean is, “Nothing will be done.”

* * * * * 

Flipping channels Sunday, I paused to watch as Vancouver Whitecaps FC played an MSL game at StubHub Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, CA. In a facility capable of seating 27,000, the announced crowd was 6,684. No way was that a head count. Feet, maybe. Or, toes.

Regardless, I learned that no matter how many, or how few, sports fans paid admission, California taxpayers were unaffected because StubHub Center was financed by its operator, Anschutz Entertainment Group. I looked at the financing of other sports arenas – or multi-use facilites, as the spinmeisters prefer – and learned that BC Place sets a standard than none of the others come close to meeting. The graph illustrates:

Dollars in the following detail have not been adjusted for project timing or exchange and that would change the comparisons slightly.

This would be amusing if it were not such an impactful situation. For more than a decade, BC Liberals have claimed to be skilled managers of the people’s finances, saving us from economic disasters that would result if lefties were in charge. The taxpayers of BC paid almost $15,000 for each and every seat of BC Place. Yet, the Socialist squanderers in Sweden managed to open the equivalent sized Friends Arena in Stockholm for a public cost of $1,325 per seat.


Categories: BC Place, Pavco

23 replies »

  1. Norm! (glad to have you back)

    Great post.

    Of course, when your cronies are Casino Industrial Complex faux capitalists and they tell you to build it, or else, the profligate financial managers listen.




  2. As I am opposed to government getting into sports arenas such as BC Place, I often wondered why the NDP did not sell the thing when they were in government. But dividing the total cost by the total number of seats is a bit simplistic since each of these arenas is different, and there's not breakdown of the revenue from ticketing.

    But I gather this is another criticism of the BC Liberals which never ends. Sure wish the NDP won, there wouldn't be much of anything for Norm and the other left wing bloggers to whine about in regards to an NDP government would there?


  3. I have a close friend who is a just recently retired school teacher up here in the Okanagan, when I mentioned the 700 million roof overrun added to bc place he said to me IMAGINE HOW MUCH WORSE THAT COST WOULD HAVE BEEN IF IT WAS THE NDP, how do we break that cycle of ignorance and paranoia in this current compliant/complicit media environment


  4. Based on its original cost, BC Place probably made sense as a public facility even though it was 50% larger than needed. It stopped being a worthwhile public asset when they spent massively for a new roof and renovations that pals of the BC Liberals desired for a casino operation. An air supported roof was replaced on the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for $14 million and, while inflation would have raised that price tag here to about $20 million, the old stadium could have been kept in service if they cared about value for money.

    The total cost per seat is indeed a simple analysis and an effective and meaningful one. Compare the similar sized Swedish stadium opened in 2012 and then ask who got a better deal for a retractable roof stadium. Was it the taxpayers of Sweden or British Columbia?

    BTW, including facility revenue would make the comparisons worse. The public funds all annual operating losses at BC Place and they are large. The Vancouver arena earned an average of less than $30 million a year in 2012 and 2013. That's less than 10% of the revenues at the Arlington TX stadium and it cost the public 1/4 of what BC Place cost the public.


  5. This is not left wing or right wing. The only wings here are the ones this particular crew will be using to fly the coop once they have finished fleecing the hardworking taxpayer and giving away our public resources for chicken feed. I submit Norm would be just as hard on any government that is not working with integrity for future generations and the common good of BC……no one would be getting a free pass like they are with our “professional” media outlets.


  6. It is strange that some people cover their eyes and ignore evidence of malfeasance because they believe doing so serves a particular philosophical bent. If the comment writer discovered a banker stealing from his account, before he could complain, he/she would first have to determine the banker's position on the left/right spectrum. Of course, that's absurd but it is a choice that hundreds of thousand of BC citizens are making.


  7. Welcome back Norm. Your return, even though you have said it will be less active, is most needed and appreciated, especially with the disappearance of other bloggers and HO slacking off again.

    It seems there is a minority, who pay attention and are aware of, the pillaging and I just can’t understand why the Opposition isn’t ranting publicly every day about BC Place, BC Hydro, BC Ferries, Translink, the convention centre and all the other financial albatrosses. Even at the most basic level, if the NDP cited reports like yours they would be doing every citizen a service. I’m completely baffled.


  8. This happening with both 'rapid transit' planning and with the SFPR!

    SkyTrain, despite the propaganda from the City of Vancouver, TransLink, and the Ministry of Transportation, offers no operational advantage over modern LRT, in fact studies have shown that LRT, operating on a grade separated guideway, is cheaper to build and operate, yet we build only with SkyTrain.

    The Canada Line is not SkyTrian at all, yet the $2.5 billion dumbed down heavy-rail metro has less capacity than a simple streetcar or tram line costing about one tenth to build.

    SNC Lavalin and Bombardier Inc. are the main players building rapid transit, yet we are spending upwards of 400% more to build with their products and services.

    The SFPR is more crony capitalism where massive, yet poorly planned road junctions at Hwys 17 & 17A and Hwys 17 & 99, have ensured huge profits for members of the Road Builders Association.

    This is the new method of government siphoning monies to their politcal friends, by approving and building grossly over engineered projects, which cost 4 or 5 times more than they should.

    PS Welcome back!


  9. An opportunity for gain from manipulation of system procurement is fairly obvious but probably worth more are benefits from advance knowledge of routes and station placement. Limiting the number of transit stops, as done on elevated rail systems, results in clustering of commercial development and great profit opportunities for connected real estate speculators.

    I'm glad you are back writing. I don't always agree but you seem to have a handle on numbers behind the issues. It's too bad the paid pundits don't have nerve to expand on your work. The Liberal government knows it will never be challenged on major economic matters. They'll chase after sick puppy stories but ignore billion dollar resource frauds.


  10. TransLInk's been a dysfunctional operation for a long time, not improved when restructured seven years ago by Liberal Minister Kevin Falcon.


  11. The old Skytrain vs. LRT debate once again. I see the SkyTrain trolls are busy at it again.

    The old grade separated debate is without merit as there is no proof that SkyTrain is less disruptive than LRT, in fact LRT tends to enhance traffic flows and is more user friendly.

    Glen Clark and Joy McPhail were bribed with the prospect of large overseas sales of SkyTrain with cars built at a local a fabrication plant (Jobs, jobs, jobs) for the switcheroo from LRT for the M Line. The new SkyTrain lines did not materialize and the fab plant is no more.

    The Canada Line is a dismal failure as it is merely carrying former bus riders and a mass of students using the deep discounted U-pass (up to a 90% discount on a regular fare or pass). Short trains and short 40 metre station platforms which greatly limits capacity,combined with the fact that the Canada Line did not create a modal shift from car to transit and that the projected 200,000 car trips taken off the road did not materialize, will doom the Canada Line to White elephant status in coming years.

    Filling the Canada Line with cheap tickets only points to the reason why Translink is in financial peril and not wanting to take the LRT/Skytrain debate any further, but only 7 SkyTrain type systems have been built in 40 years, compare with almost m200 new LRT lines certainly gives one pause for thought. Even the Canada Line is not SkyTrain and the two systems are incompatible in operation. And please don't blame TransLink's woes on the NDP, it was the BC Liberals who really screwed thing up by forcing the present Canada line on us, which judge Pittfield, during the Susan Heyes court case, called the sham bidding process for the sham P-3 a “Charade”.

    If one looks at our local rapid transit, two names just keep popping up Bombardier and SNC Lavalin and we all know their business practices.


  12. Which brings the question, if the Liebreals were such financial geniuses why didn't they sell it.
    The answer to that of course is that it was more expedient to fill their supporters pockets with new roofs knowing full well that no one in their right mind would buy this money losing piece of crap.
    Good to see you back Norm. I presume you know that Glacier shut down the Kamloops Daily News suddenly in January not long after your pal?? Rothenburger retired.


  13. Disagree there. How could an LRT line enhance traffic flows as it is routed down the middle of a street? It does have merit and is a modern day equivalent to the old Interurban. Glen Clark and Joy McPhail weren't bribed, they simply did not do the homework. Did they actually question Bombardier before allowing the car assembly facility to go ahead?

    Canada line isn't a dismal failure. It's used quite a lot and not only by U Pass students. U Pass is good on the entire Translink system not just Canada Line. Canada Line has been quite successful in terms of ridership. It's only the Whiney Wallies that figure it is a failure.

    It was the NDP that brought Translink. Now since there was a large business disruption along the Lougheed Highway in Brentwood, was the M-LIne forced upon us too? Of course not, it was an NDP project, not a BC Liberal one.


  14. As a winter resident of Phoenix, and a regular visitor to the U of Phoenix stadium in Glendale – I am embarrassed by BC Place and the reno costs. The UoP stadium even has a rolling field – moves outside to provide better growth of the turf, then back into A/C comfort for the game. Plus an opening roof – and about 30,000 parking spots (including VIP).

    No matter what history is brought up about NDP fiscal mistakes, they are really nothing compared to the obscene sell-off of our province to corporate interests.


  15. Amazing, eh? 10,000 more seats (and 24,000 more parking places) at the Glendale facility where the public contribution was $312 million,

    However, beyond Bob Mackin, this and a few other blogs, barely a peep about vast sums of money wasted at BC Place. Compare that to the media outrage of the previous government's fast ferry blunders.


  16. Actually Anonymous, modern light rail does enhance traffic flows and well regulated signalling along a tram line does not cause the traffic chaos as many would have us think. Just imagine if there were no traffic lights in Vancouver …. yes that's right, traffic gridlock.

    The Canada Line is a failure, that despite an over $2.5 billion investment, there is no indication that the Canada Line has taken cars off the road and plenty of indications that projected number of cars taken off the road just did not materialize. Reduced connecting bus services and an empty park and ride lot in South Surrey are good indications that the C-Line just did not do what it was supposed to.

    All we here about the C-Line is Bill Good claim that it has been wildly successful, which is a good indication that it is not. All the C-Line did was give existing bus riders an inconvenient $2.5 billion forced transfer.

    While we are at is, the C-Line's small 40m to 50m station platforms can only accommodate 2 car trains, which gives the Canada line a very small capacity, at best about 6,600 pphpd (2 car trains at 3 minute headways), which is much less than a simple tram or streetcar line costing about one tenth to build. No wonder no one copies Vancouver! It seems planners from other cities did not nap through their math classes like TransLink's planners.
    A very good indication if a transit project is successful or not is how many people copy ones transit planning and developments and no one has copied Vancouver, except for Seattle and their extremely expensive hybrid light metro/rail system, which has not been a great success.

    The City of Ottawa sent a fact finding tour to Vancouver which in the end convinced them not to build with SkyTrain, which is hardly an endorsement for our current planning. I also find it puzzling that you keep on wanting to dump on the NDP for TransLink, while at the same time keep quiet on the Campbell Liberals meddling with the outfit, which makes me wonder how life is in the PAB under Chrisiti Clark?

    The mainstream media have remained mute about regional transit and has glad-handed every R/T Line and except for Charlie Smith at the Straight, the MSM reported TransLink's 'porkies' as gospel, while at the same time moaned for a decade or more about fast ferries and other NDP blunders.


  17. Why are you wasting time on ancient history? The convention center and BC Place are complete and they prove to the world that BC Liberals get things done. Ne'er sayers never build anything and no one gets rich. At least in BC, lots of people get rich because government is willing to spend money building things. This way, everyone that matters is better off.


  18. “At least in BC, lots of people get rich because government is willing to spend money building things. This way, everyone that matters is better off.”

    Well said, Stephen. That's exactly the point Norm has been making all along: if you don't matter to them, the Liberals don't care about you. If you're not a crony, they just want your moe-ney.


  19. It always amuses me to see Liberal supporters coming to the defence of the mighty Liberals. Could it be that all their “protests” indicates trouble in paradise?

    July Morning


  20. and thanks to Ross –
    Here's the restraint suffered by by some of BC's highest paid civil servants:

    Doug Pearce, CEO of bcIMC, annual remuneration:
    – FY 2011 $ 1,029,218
    – FY 2012 $ 1,280,786
    – FY 2013 $ 1,582,186
    – FY 2013 $ 1,806,345 (76% over 3 years)

    Lincoln Webb, VP of bcIMC (one of more than a dozen VP's), annual remuneration:
    – FY 2011 $ 724,507
    – FY 2012 $ 866,777
    – FY 2013 $ 1,035,871
    – FY 2014 $ 1,198,308 (65% over 3 years)

    Bryan Thomson, VP of bcIMC, annual remuneration:
    – FY 2011 $ 553,689
    – FY 2012 $ 702,447
    – FY 2013 $ 847,759
    – FY 2014 $ 990,367 (79% over 3 years)

    Where's the government's 1% for “public employees”? They are public employees working at public entities. The cupboard is bare we're told. Surely not for lieberal supporters, only hard working common people trying to raise families and keep afloat. Christy, what was your raise/bonus this year and those of your executives? Will you tell us?
    We have a right as people paying you. Also a right to know what “all” employees at “all government entities are paid from the top down.


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