EDITORIAL: Telling it like it is

There are no doubt many taxpayers who hoped the abrupt axing of the Abbotsford Heat hockey contract last year...

There are no doubt many taxpayers who hoped the abrupt axing of the Abbotsford Heat hockey contract last year would also bring an end to the financial bleeding of the sports centre.

Those people will be disappointed with the latest report on the Abbotsford Centre, which pegs the 2014 loss at $1.7 million.

The red ink, however, has become considerably shallower than the $2.3 million shortfall in 2013 – reflecting a restructuring of the contract with management company Global Spectrum.

It cost the city $5.5 million to extricate itself from the ill-fated hockey venture, but considering the Heat also drew $1-million-plus in annual civic subsidies, the long-term picture is an improvement over slogging through another five years of combined team and facility losses.

After all the public lambasting for getting into the grossly expensive deal in the first place, city hall deserves acknowledgement for recent and ongoing efforts to lighten the load on taxpayers.

In addition to rewriting the Global operating agreement, seven local positions were eliminated and new marching orders issued for entertainment and activity initiatives.

While a more conservative approach may be resulting in greater challenges bringing big name acts into town, the shows that are booked are far more likely to be revenue-positive.

Ultimately, the centre needs another anchor tenant – hockey team or otherwise.

Regardless, Mayor Henry Braun vows that whoever moves into the facility will not represent a new drain on public dollars. When that deal is eventually struck, he estimates the annual arena loss could be shaved to about $1 million.

And that, he says, is likely to be as good as it gets.

We might not like our elephant in the room, but at least now it’s on a leash.