City hall, facing $962K tab for Jets street celebrations, mulls means of paying the playoff party piper

City hall, facing $962K tab for Jets street celebrations, mulls means of paying the playoff party piper

City councillors are considering ways to pay for future Winnipeg Jets playoff parties as the Winnipeg Police Service, Winnipeg Transit and other city departments struggle to absorb part of the tab.

Nine whiteout parties cost a total of $2.2 million, Economic Development Winnipeg disclosed Monday. Winnipeg Jets owner True North Sports & Entertainment covered half the costs, while the mayor’s office contributed $120,000 through Economic Development Winnipeg.

The city is grappling with the remaining $962,000 tab, which mostly represents police and transit overtime. 

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie said it’s not acceptable to cut services to pay for the parties.

The Winnipeg Jets were all smiles for most of a year in which they went all the way to the Western Conference final series. There are fewer smiles at city hall as council mulls a means of paying for what’s left of the whiteout party tab. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press)

In future playoff years, he said the city could claw back on the entertainment-funding tax rebates it provides to True North, which adds the tax on to all Bell MTS Place ticket sales.

“I don’t think they’re reporting how much extra entertainment tax did they earn as a result of the Winnipeg Jets being in the playoffs,” Eadie said Tuesday at city hall.

He also said the city could use proceeds from its accommodation tax to pay for future parties, given that hotels benefit from playoff-related business.

Revenue generated by the tax is deposited into the Destination Marketing Reserve.

Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who chairs council’s community services committee, said the idea is worth considering.

“We need to talk to the folks at the Destination Marketing Reserve [and] talk to my colleagues,” Pagtakhan said. “These are discussions that need to take place.”

Mayor Brian Bowman said Winnipeg wouldn’t even be having this discussion if Ottawa and the province provided the city with a share of sales tax revenue. 

“We don’t get that immediate return on investment the way that other levels of government get,” referring to the sale of food, alcohol and merchandise related to the Jets’ playoff run.

“There was GST and PST being collected by all of that economic activity, which was significant.”

Mayor Brian Bowman, posing Tuesday at a fried-pizza-snack truck, says a cut of sales taxes would ease Winnipeg’s playoff-party hangover. (Lyza Sale/CBC)

True North vice-president Kevin Donnelly said his organization lost about $600,000 on the street parties.

While True North spent $1.1 million on production costs and a grant to the city, it only netted about $500,000 from the sale of alcohol at the whiteout parties and the collection of a 20 per cent cut of food truck sales, Donnelly said on Monday.

Without public spending, there would be no street parties, he added.

“In most common occurrences where there is a gathering like that,” he said, “the team isn’t involved at all and the team doesn’t pay anything.

“The example that we looked at is in Nashville — all the expenses were paid by the visitors’ bureau and the city.”

Nashville’s street parties were much smaller in scale than those in Winnipeg. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. spent an average of about $48,000 Cdn on each of its Predators parties, vice-president Bonna Johnson said in a statement.

The average cost of a whiteout party was approximately $244,000.

Published at Tue, 05 Jun 2018 20:00:23 -0400