Those expressing worry about a recently launched $5-million fundraising campaign to help pay for renovations to Brantford’s Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre are certainly justified in their concern.
The $5 million the city aims to raise is earmarked for a new 25-metre swimming pool, a warm-water therapy pool, a gymnasium, dry-land training area and expansion to the Brantford and Area Sports Hall of Recognition. As part of the campaign, the naming rights for the Gretzky centre’s main arena and existing 65-metre pool are available for $1 million each. The remaining three ice pads in the facility can be sponsored for $600,000 each.
There’s little doubt the city could use some help in paying for the project, which will cost about $15 million more than originally planned. Renovations to the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, which remain ongoing, are now estimated to cost more than $60 million.
But asking the public and businesses to help pay for the project could be a hard sell.
From the start, the Gretzky centre project has been plagued by cost overruns. Problems with cost estimates were of such concern by last December that at least two city councillors suggested a third-party investigation into the matter. That will certainly lead at least some potential donors to think twice before opening their wallets.
To raise the $5 million being sought, Brantford has contracted professional fundraisers KCI Ketchum Canada for 14 months at a cost of $25,000 per month, which will be recouped from the campaign. That means the city could pay KCI up to $350,000 to help raise $5 million. That equals seven per cent of the total campaign goal.
What does that mean for those donating to the fundraising campaign? That of every $100 an individual or company donates, KCI could receive $7.
Most are well aware that KCI does fine work when it comes to organizing fundraising campaigns (the company is a Canadian leader in such endeavours), but perhaps the City of Brantford should have thought twice before agreeing to pay up to $350,000 for such a campaign. Perhaps a citizens committee, with the assistance of city council and staff, could have mounted a similar effort.
To be fair, council did consider that option back in December, but a report received by politicians said city staff did not have the time or expertise to undertake such a campaign. That may be true, but could the city not have found an individual or organization willing to lead a community and corporate fundraising campaign for less that $350,000? We think so.
The cost of the current campaign will certainly raise a few eyebrows, perhaps even discourage some from donating.
A last point worth raising about the issue was first brought forward by Coun. Vince Bucci back in December, when council first considered the idea of hiring a professional fundraiser for the Gretzky centre project. “I don’t think we as a city should be competing with the non-profit corporations for the few dollars that are out there,” Bucci said. “There are only so many dollars to go around.”
Bucci was right and the same sentiment has been echoed by others in recent weeks. It is certainly more than reasonable to think that a $5-million campaign to help pay for Gretzky centre renovations could hurt other charities attempting to raise funds in Brant – charities that need the money to support important community programs.
Considering the history of the Gretzky centre renovation, the current fundraising campaign could be a tough go. That said, we wish the city every success, as long as it’s not at the expense of other important local fundraising initiatives.