The Videotron Centre was built with one goal in mind: to play host to the reborn Nordiques, because NHL expansion wasn’t going to consider Quebec City without a modern arena in place. Well, the arena exists, and Quebec City still isn’t getting an NHL team. Money well spent?
The city and the province split the cost of the 18,259-seat arena, which came in at around $370 million (CAD). And then they turned the entire thing over to telecommunications giant Quebecor for $33 million, with the national assembly passing a controversial law to protect the arrangement from potential lawsuits. (Conflicts of interest abound: Qubecor’s controlling shareholder Pierre Karl Péladeau was the leader of the Parti Québécois from May 2015 until he resigned last month.)
You didn’t hear much fuss about this outside of Quebec—where a large majority of residents outside of Quebec City were against their taxes funding the arena, but were given no say in the matter—probably because it was viewed as the cost of getting a team. (It shouldn’t be, obviously.) Qubecor wasn’t going to put up the expansion fee unless the public built it an arena; the NHL wasn’t going to award a franchise without Quebecor in the picture.
And yet. Whether it was because of the weak Canadian dollar, the questions about the market size, or the NHL’s desire to balance its conferences, Las Vegas got an expansion team and Quebec City didn’t. And now Quebec City is stuck with a big expensive arena that it paid for, and continues to pay for.
The contract for the arena obligates Quebec City to pay half of the arena’s operational deficit, a figure that amounted to $730,000 in its first four months of existence.
It was the opposition at Quebec City that revealed the numbers during a presentation of financial statements by city officials Monday afternoon. The financial records of the Videotron Centre are not available to the public as they are protected by a confidentiality agreement.
“If we project this over one year, it’s a $2.2 million dollar deficit,” Paul Shoiry, the leader of Démocratie Québec, said.
(Please note the confidentiality agreement; if opposition politicians had not announced these figures, citizens would have no idea how much money they’re still pumping into a largely empty arena.)
The deficit was likely not part of the projections for the arena, because those projections included an NHL team—which in itself was an inaccurate projection. And it does not look like things are going to get better anytime soon.
Is it likely that the Videotron Centre will suddenly turn a profit? Outside of games for the junior hockey Quebec Remparts, the next event listed for the building after that Oct. 4 NHL exhibition is a concert on Nov. 21. And then, um, a hypnotist on Jan. 4. That is not a lot of events.
You got fucked over, citizens. You didn’t get a vote but your lawmakers spent your money on an arena that was immediately handed over to a $10 billion corporation. You’re still paying Quebecor’s bills. And you didn’t even get that NHL team you were promised.