Why is it that whenever governments or government agencies get involved in mega-projects, there can be no other outcome than a financial sinkhole? How is it that when these edifices are unveiled, they are almost always boondoggles, as opposed to bonanzas?
Such is the case with SkyDome. We recently dropped by the ballpark to report on the Toronto Blue Jays receiving a “National Interest Exemption,” which exempts the players from following COVID-19 travelling protocols (Bread & Circuses provision, we presume) so that they can play their home games in Toronto again.
Maybe baseball fans were giddy about seeing their beloved blue birds playing ball in Hogtown again last Friday, after an almost two-year absence, but for us, the mere sight of the SkyDome causes fiscal indigestion.
Here’s the skinny on this white elephant: when ground broke to build SkyDome in the late ’80s, it was supposed to cost $150 million. By the time it opened on June 3, 1989, the off-the-lot price was $570 million. Please note: most of the funding came via — surprise! — the taxpayer.
But there is a twist to this sordid stadium saga: some how, some way, Robbers — er, I mean, Rogers — was able to purchase this ballpark in 2004. The price: $25 million (in other words, 4 per cent of the original 1989 construction costs.) Fancy that: SkyDome was the only piece of downtown Toronto real estate to depreciate by some 96 per cent over the course of 15 years!
To add insult to injury, SkyDome was promptly renamed as the Rogers Centre (which makes it sound like a shopping mall rather than a stadium). And after company founder Ted Rogers passed away in 2008, somebody thought it would be a good idea to erect a statue of Negative Option Billing Ted in front of the ballpark, his smirk barely concealed.
Gee, where are the statue tear-down mobs when you really need them?