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We should soon know more about JLC finances

David Langford, Sports Editor   2004-01-03 04:13:01  

There has been much written about the John Labatt Centre in these pages in recent months. The first anniversary of the building was noted in a large and colourful way; a much ballyhooed Tourism London-backed bid has been put forward to host the world junior hockey championship; the arena operators (Global Spectrum) and main tenants (London Knights) have joined forces in a bid to host the Memorial Cup; and the upcoming Shania Twain concert was sold out in seven minutes.

These are all good-news stories and should be treated as such.

Along the way, the only contentious issue had been a guarantee required by the city to ensure the world junior bid is successful and the tournament is ours in 2006.

Even that guarantee had minimal risk, John Winston and his bid team correctly pointed out, because nearly 7,000 ticket buyers put their money where their mouths previously existed and indicated they are on board to sell the place out.

The actual amount of the guarantee has been a well-guarded secret and that's OK due to the competitive nature of the bid process.

But what remains troublesome to some -- including letter writer Ross Nightingdale in yesterday's Free Press -- is the fact there is little information about how much money has been raised by you and me buying tickets to events at the JLC, a facility the city built at a cost to taxpayers of about $42 million.

That's not to mention the inflated costs of food and beverages, possibly the highest in the province outside the Air Canada Centre.

We do know this much: The city gets 20 per cent of the profits for each of the first five years of the lease between the municipality and the London Civic Centre Corp.

The LCCC is composed of the stadium builder (Ellis-Don at 34 per cent), the stadium architects (Stadium Consultants Inc. at 14 per cent) and the operators (Comcast Spectator, parent company of Global Spectrum, at 52 per cent.)

How much was that 20 per cent for the first year?

Global Spectrum chief Brian Ohl argues the numbers are a secret and will remain so.

That may be except for the amount the city is getting as its share.

In an October 2002 interview with The Free Press, Vic Cote, the city's acting manager of finance, estimated a profit of $138,000 would be realized by the city after the first year.

In another interview in May 2003, that number increased to $300,000.

Yesterday, Cote said the audited statements will be handed over to board of control this month, likely Jan. 21. He said he couldn't release any of the numbers until board of control sees them first.

Expect the figure to be much higher than $300,000, given that the average attendance of the Knights was about 2,000 higher per game in the first year than expected -- and even higher this season.

Also, will the profits from each beer and hotdog sold be included and, if not, why not?

(The large beer, by the way, sells for close to $10.)

Nightingdale has not been alone in his queries. Each day, questions have been raised and few have been answered to this point.

While he was not a big doer when it came to building sports properties during his reign as mayor, Tom Gosnell, the newest member of board of control, has promised transparency in the new year when it comes to city hall dollars and "sense."

A good place to start would be to let the public know, in no uncertain terms, where each dollar goes that is spent in the JLC.

And where the profits from each dollar spent are headed.

Copyright © The London Free Press 2001,2002,2003

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