Betting on basketball to Trump Vancouver’s towering inferno

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By Kirk LaPointe. Image: BIV Files

Bear with me on how I link the issues here. Trust me, I am not into the holiday punch.

Here goes: By the time we put the spade in the ground for the massive bridge to replace the infernal Massey Tunnel, and presumably by the time the city and developer have sorted out whether The Donald’s surname should/can adorn a 63-storey tower, we will also be ready to host men’s and women’s Division 1 NCAA basketball games.

Which of these three events matter most in terms of our community’s destiny?

The bridge is arguably a decade late and inarguably commuter politics over common-sense economics. We will be in driverless and presumably smooth-sailing cars by the time it might pay off or by the time taxpayers are rebating a private operator if revenue does not meet contractual expectations.

Last week’s provincial briefing on the bridge yielded more mystery than solution, mainly in how it will be financed. While we appear ambivalent in B.C. about the need for energy pipelines, we clearly want one to ship money east to west.

The bridge is the newest addition to what is still a fresh and bumper crop of local infrastructure demands on Ottawa. Sometime soon, the sunny ways of Justin Trudeau will yield to cold showers.

The dispute on the Trump tower, meanwhile, arrives in mid-build and in the froth of U.S. pre-primary madness. The mayor has determined that a developer needs to strip the naming rights from the company that salvaged the project designed by the city’s Arthur Erickson.

Remember, one of his councilors gleefully stood two years back on the podium with Trump to hail the resuscitation of what will be the city’s second-tallest building. That was clearly before Vision Vancouver read, as had many of us, about his long-known views.

True, Trump’s bigotry does not belong in Vancouver or anywhere, and better late than never to state the obvious.

But in transforming yesterday’s photo opportunity into today’s pariah, the city risks a precedent in pushing too far on what a business is obliged to do once it has established a contract.

Several lawyers are doubtlessly spending big on Christmas, safe in the knowledge they will be invoicing to pay down the bills as this matter either settles behind the scenes or hits the courts. Sooner or later – probably sooner – Trump will get a few seconds to respond, and watch out. Ideally the only hitting the courts Vancouver should be seeing involves basketball, and the only madness we should be inviting is the kind that greets March in the NCAA.

If the bridge is a long-term miasma and the Trump kerfuffle a medium-term mess, then the plan to bring U.S. college hoops here is a short-term sweet move.

An event firm’s plan to bring a regular-season NCAA men’s and women’s game starting in 2017 to the intimate Vancouver Convention Centre is a positive step with two optimal destinations: an NCAA perch for the University of British Columbia (UBC) or Simon Fraser University, or the return of the NBA to the city.

Judging by our playgrounds, basketball as much as ball hockey is the next generation’s choice. The game’s cool factor is clear. Canadian players are entering the NCAA and NBA in large numbers.

The recently packed Rogers Arena for a pre-season Raptors-Clippers contest was the best glimpse into the city’s future: a globally diverse, tech-savvy crowd – very much the NBA demo.

The city’s new Sport Hosting plan to bring medium-tier championships and events here is a modest, wise partnership with Vancouver hotels, the BC Pavilion Corp., UBC and Tourism Vancouver. It should help the region reap more of the business benefits that come with athletics.

Sure, sigh, build the bridge.

Yes, of course, scrape the Trump nameplate from the building.

But make the prominence of sport – more than vehicles, more than highrises – a priority for the livability of our emergent first-class city. 

Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.