08/24/2012 02:05 EDT | Updated 10/24/2012 05:12 EDT

'Selfless' PavCo Chair Leaves Record of BC Place Razzle Dazzle

Hey Huffington Post B.C., I'm thrilled to be IN YOU!

It's very exciting to join HuffPost's legendary list of contributing bloggers, which includes everyone from Conrad Black and David Suzuki to David Frum and Elizabeth May. In an era when media has become more and more concentrated, HuffPost has been the go-to place for fresh, relevant critical analysis, and it's an honour to be here.

Last week was a travel week -- I was in NYC for the American TV debut of my daughter Claire (better known as Grimes)on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. We had just a few hours together before she hopped onto a plane to Japan.

Kids are so mobile these days. No sooner had she boarded that flight than news broke that she's got a page in VOGUE's September Issue, with a shout-out to fabled Vancouver shoe artist John Fluevog. Apparently we are all supposed to go straight out and buy neon Day-Glo platform boots.

It's been quite an eyeopener to watch media power shape public perception around a young sensation. Once Claire captured the media's attention, the machinery just swung into hyper-mode.

A B.C. taxpayer is born!

All this show biz & media razzle-dazzle naturally brings politics to mind.

The newshounds haven't disappointed this week, bringing home the tasty morsel of David Podmore's resignation as board chair of PavCo. Recent months have seen the departures of long-term pillars: board member Peter Brown and CEO Warren Buckley. But no one represents the face of PavCo like David Podmore.


If PavCo was a publicly traded stock, Podmore and Buckley would have been drawn and quartered by their shareholders by now, based on the financial fundamentals behind the absurdly lavish BC Place Stadium retractable roof project. No formal business case was ever disclosed, as it probably could not withstand the light of day, but in 2011 during a construction tour, Podmore allowed that the half billion dollar project's financial viability rested on three primary sources:

1. An annual $6-million lease to Paragon Gaming;

2. Naming rights;

3. 40 more major events in the building, with attendant concession revenues.

Notice anything funny here?

Almost a year after substantial completion, not one of these conditions has materialized, and considerable uncertainty surrounds each of them. Every one of these conditions should have been secured prior to proceeding with the costliest roof refit in the world on the taxpayer's dime. The usual practice for major construction projects in the private sector is to conduct due diligence to identify, isolate and limit exposure, as well as to obtain in advance all licences and approvals necessary to the success of the enterprise.

None of that happened here. Paragon failed to obtain its licences so the lease revenue, modest as it was relative to the scale of our expenditure, is in peril. And the less said about the naming rights fiasco, the better.

But worst of all, only one major concert event was booked into BC Place between its 2011 opening and 2013, and no more is in sight.

Where are the 40 events, Mr. Podmore? Gone with the wind. As anyone familiar with major tours would have told PavCo if they were asked, only about 10 acts in the world can play a stadium in a regional market like ours. Half of them are ready to drop dead of old age and the other half only tours every couple of years. They'll come here if the scheduling, trucking and transportation issues make sense. Which, you might have noticed, is not very often.

By contrast, the business model of privately held Rogers Arena as both a sporting and event venue is vastly superior to BC Place. Rogers hosts a major North American sports franchise with a long season, broadcast rights into the lucrative U.S. market, significant concessions and rents from a powerhouse merchandising brand. It can and does host many major music tours, and it was successfully built and operates on the private dime.

BC Place has never worked as a business model and pouring half a billion dollars into it hasn't helped at all. The retractable roof project at BC Place screams RISK to any experienced businessperson spending their own money rather than somebody else's.

It's a vanity project, pure and simple.

But rather than being tarred and feathered by angry shareholders, Podmore is lionized by our local media as a superb captain of industry. With few exceptions, our media seems unfamiliar with such arcane concepts as balance sheets, income statements, and the basics of due diligence. In the end it is their judgment that shapes public perception.

If all this is a mystery, Dear Reader, remember that to criticize PavCo is to criticize the BC Liberal Party. If you are critical of the BC Liberal Party then you are a crank or a socialist, and it therefore follows that you have no concept of how to operate a business.

Ergo, Podmore retires with distinction from his years of selfless service to the people of British Columbia, who may now humbly thank him.

The Order of Canada can't be far behind.