Sandy Hickman defends higher subsidy for St. John's Sports and Entertainment
Opening of expanded convention centre in 2016 will mean higher operating costs, says councillor
The City of St. John's adopted one of its most austere budgets in recent times this week, yet found an additional $670,000 for St. John's Sports and Entertainment (SJSE), the body that operates Mile One Stadium and the St. John's Convention Centre.
The increased subsidy — growing from $1.9 million to $2.57 million — is earmarked for the convention centre, which has undergone a $65-million expansion and is scheduled to open this winter.
The city's representative with SJSE, Coun. Sandy Hickman, defended the higher subsidy.
"They are both seen as economic drivers," Hickman said of the two downtown facilities.
"They are necessities in cities this size. You must have a place where you can congregate. Where you can have potential for a hockey team. For major concerts. And for conventions other other types of shows."
The convention centre expansion is being paid for by an accommodations tax on hotel rooms in the city, and is expected to open new opportunities for larger and more frequent conventions.
New centre expected to lead to economic spinoffs
Hickman said there are already bookings out so far as 2018.
But it's twice the size of the original facility, and Hickman said operating costs will be higher, although a more accurate subsidy won't be determined until the facility has been in use for a few years.
"It will have tax revenue returned to the city," said Hickman, referring to spinoffs in the accommodations, food and tourism sectors.
Hickman stressed that the Mile One subsidy will not increase in 2016.
The subsidy is variable, and depends on revenue generated from events such as concerts, conventions and other special events.
Mile One is home to the St. John's IceCaps, an American Hockey League franchise that pays an annual lease of $750,000 to SJSE.