By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
Following an investigation from staff, Oshawa councillors have upped the ante on their Memorial Cup bid support for the Oshawa Generals to $200,000 of in-kind services.
Prior to the official approval on Oct. 6, Oshawa council had approved in-principle support after a request from the Oshawa Generals in July.
In a letter to the city, the Gens proposed a partnership to host the tournament that would see the OHL hockey club take the risk by providing the CHL’s bid guarantee (a monetary guarantee the CHL will receive for hosting the tournament here) while the city would cover the expenses related to hosting the tournament.
These would include the installation of temporary seating within the soon-to-be Tribute Communities Centre to push capacity to approximately 6,500, along with the installation of on-ice projection technology. The city would also be on the hook for transportation and accommodation costs for visiting teams, staffing costs, technical requirements and any permit or road closure costs.
In total, a city report estimates those costs at more than $2 million.
“There’s no way I think we can spend $2 million of taxpayers’ money to support a Memorial Cup bid,” said Councillor Bob Chapman during a special meeting of council to approve the support.
“For us, it’s trying to put something together that works for everybody,” says Mayor John Henry. “If you take the $200,000 in-kind and add the time clock, that’s $1 million. That’s pretty substantial.”
Most recently, the city reached a deal with the Generals that saw the installation of a $700,000-plus jumbotron installed inside the arena.
According to a city report, Oshawa’s support is approximate to what host cities over the past three years have provided. Last season, the City of Red Deer provided $200,000 in cash along with some in-kind services for the Red Deer Rebels’ bid. Quebec provided $500,000 in cash to the Remparts in 2015 and London gave approximately $88,500 of in-kind services to the Knights in 2014.
“We certainly are in line,” said Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki. “I think what is before us here is very, very good.”
However, not everyone agreed, as Generals’ owner Rocco Tullio slammed councillors for what he sees as an “insulting” attempt to support a team that is looking to bring large economic benefit to the city.
Tullio says that councillors seem to be out of touch with what the city needs.
“When you really peel back the onion here, this council and administration have not done a good job,” he says, noting that several attempts to reach Henry throughout the course of negotiations were not returned.
“As far as I’m concerned, I look at this and what is their legacy? What have they done here?”
For Henry, the support offers a fair balance for the city.
“We have this willingness to work together as a team to make it happen and, at the same time, be respectful of all the costs that are involved,” he said.