I am from the province of Saskatchewan. Wonderful place, if you can handle weeks on end of -40C in the winter. People are lovely. Friendly too.
Unfortunately, they now have too much money.
Several years ago, I flagged the opportunities of Saskatchewan, as well as the nuttiness of the local economy. When I grew up there in the 70s and 80s, it was flat broke. Saskatchewan's biggest export was people. Farmers were receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from Ottawa to bail them out because grain prices were so low that the farm economy was effectively bankrupt. The government was utterly incompetent, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on subsidies for people to upgrade their homes, i.e. build whirlpools in their back yard. The province's bonds were rated junk. The pension fund of the capital city, Regina, was prohibited from buying the province's bonds because they weren't investment grade.
But now, Saskatchewan is the quintessential asset-driven economy play. It is blessed with commodities. Saskatchewan is a major producer of grains such as wheat and canola. It has vast deposits of potash. And it may have extensive reserves of oil and gas, too. The Bakken Formation extends into Saskatchewan, and some speculate that there are oil sands in the western part of the province.
In other words, Saskatchewan is loaded.
Too loaded, in fact. It is a common phenomenon that people without money who get money sometimes blow it on unwise things. And that is what the people of Saskatchewan may be on the verge of doing.
The City of Regina is examining the possibility of building a domed facility to replace Mosaic Stadium.
Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco said Tuesday the city is looking into what it would cost to build a domed stadium, if the move would be financially practical and how it would be funded.
“We’re doing our due diligence and we’ll go from there,’’ Fiacco said Tuesday. “It has to be affordable but we all know that it takes a bit of an investment. Someone had the vision to build Mosaic Stadium or Taylor Field at the time. For obvious reasons, we have to make sure that we take care of the next 50 years.’’
Fiacco said it was too early to speculate on the costs, size or site of the new facility. He said the city would like to build the facility close to where Mosaic Stadium is currently located.
Fiacco said that the domed stadium would be more than a home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are the primary tenants of Mosaic Stadium.
Now, I'm a huge Riders fan. All of us from the province are. But a domed stadium? In Regina?
Regina has a population of 200,000. Saskatchewan has a population of 1 million. The province had a population of 1 million 50 years ago.
The estimated cost of building a domed stadium in Regina is $386 million. Given The Law of Stadium Costs - the actual cost of building a stadium will be on average double the initial estimate - such a stadium may wind up dinging the taxpayers of Saskatchewan a cool $750 million.
This, to me, seems nuts. The province almost went belly up in the 1990s due to incompetent government schemes and spending and a near depression in the farm economy. A commodity-based cyclical economy without many people probably should be using its money prudently, not blowing it on extravagances such as a shiny new sporting arena. It reminds me of those guys buying five condos on the beach they could not afford, financing it with subprime ARM loans, thinking the party will never end.
Given the fondness in my heart for my home province, I propose a better solution. Instead of building a new domed stadium, buy the Pontiac Silverdome! Last year, the former home of the NFL's most hapless franchise was sold for a mere $583,000. Factoring in the The Law of Stadium Costs, that is 0.07% of the prospective cost of a domed stadium in Regina. Think of the savings!
Of course, this presents a bit of a problem since Pontiac is in Michigan, 1351 miles from Regina (2163 km for my Canadian readers). How do you get the Silverdome to Regina?
Well, I don't know. Someone else can figure that out. Maybe they can dig it out of the ground, plop it on a few trucks, and drive it to Regina. You know, like those big trucks that move pre-manufactured homes place to place, with the smaller trucks decked out in orange and yellow trailing behind, going 20 mph below the speed limit.
Or maybe the province can just fly everyone to Michigan. They could spend $700 million transporting all the spectators to the Silverdome. They would still be better off than building a domed stadium.
That may not make much sense, but it seems to make a whole lot more sense than a province the size of Texas with the population of San Jose CA and one of the most cyclical economies on the planet that was just recently on the brink of bankruptcy building a domed stadium for hundreds of millions of dollars.