Following the numbers around the city’s contract with the Heat hockey team is neither an easy, nor an uplifting exercise – for the public and civic officials alike.
This week, we were told the figures recently reported for the 2010/11 season were incorrect.
Instead of a projected $724,000 payment to the AHL club, the City of Abbotsford has adjusted that up to $1.2 million.
There was some confusion over payments made during the team’s fiscal year, which actually spans the calendar from July to June.
The bottom line is considerably more disturbing than the error.
In its first season, the city paid the Heat $450,000 under its 10-year contract, which guarantees the club $5.7 million in revenue. Any shortfall below that ceiling is covered with public funds.
In its second season, we are now being told the team is projected to cost the city $1.2 million, although that may change when final figures are tallied next month.
Nevertheless, it means the hockey club will have nearly tripled its deficit in year two.
Team management has said there is a bright point, in that attendance at games apparently rose toward the end of the season. We can only hope that trend keeps climbing in dramatic fashion in 2011/12.
There is increasing talk among critics that the city should pull out of the deal.
Aside from what would undoubtedly be a severe financial penalty for doing so – the contract does not clearly specify what that might be, possibly leaving it to litigation – it’s too early to pull the pin on this endeavour.
There are marketing strategies yet to be undertaken, fans to be won over.
However, the deal does contain a five-year financial review clause.
The situation could be termed thus – three years to make it, rewrite it, or perhaps, even break it.