Saskatchewan Roughrider fans had two reasons to cheer on July 14.
First, their Green and White-clad football heroes upended the defending Grey Cup champions, the B.C. Lions, 23-20 in what was an impressive and resilient effort. The Riders are 3-0, and they're the only undefeated team left in the CFL.
But of far more lasting significance was the pre-game announcement that the provincial government, Regina City Council and the Riders have reached an agreement on how to fund the new home for the Riders.
The most pertinent information for southeast residents: the provincial government will pledge $80 million, and loan $100 million, for the project – a 33,000-seat, open air, roof-ready stadium that should be finished in 2017.
The City of Regina will pay $73 million, and the Riders will chip in $25 million.
I have no qualms with provincial taxpayers contributing some money to this project. A lot of people from outside of Regina will use the venue, whether it's for football, concerts or other events. The stadium is in Regina, but it's not just a Regina project.
Having a new stadium will also be an advantage when the Riders attempt to recruit players to join the team.
The most intriguing element of this project is the $100 million loan, which will be repaid through a stadium fee on tickets for Rider games and other events.
Some people will be upset. They'll claim that this stadium fee will make a Rider game or a concert unaffordable for certain demographics. But Mosaic already has a stadium fee, and this will mean a mere $4 increase. Four dollars is about half the cost of a flat, stale beer at Mosaic.
User pay systems work. It will take time to repay the $100 million loan, but user pay beats the alternative: a heavy tax burden on Regina residents, or additional funding from the provincial government.
Everybody knows that Regina needs a new stadium. The Riders and the City of Regina can continue to make changes to Mosaic's seating, video screens and other creature comforts, but the concourse, the washrooms and the concession at the stadium are inadequate, and too costly to renovate.
The price of a new stadium will also increase each year this project is delayed. Now isn't the best time to build, but it's better than five or 10 years from now. (Ask the good people in Moose Jaw what happens when you delay a much-needed sports venue).
I would prefer to have a new stadium constructed with a retractable roof. I wish it could seat 35,000 or 40,000 people instead of 33,000. Mosaic is a great place to watch a game, but it's still antiquated, and it will have to be replaced eventually.
So do it now. And be thankful for a user pay system.