B.C. government budget includes $2.7 million for 2014 Grey Cup, but will it come to pass?

If the B.C. government has its way, the Grey Cup game will return to the province for the second time in four years in November 2014. Ace Vancouver business reporter Bob Mackin has an impressive story at Business In Vancouver confirming that the PavCo (the Crown corporation that oversees B.C. Place) service plan for 2013 released on Tuesday includes a $2.7 million contribution from the province "to assist in securing an event in 2014," which also is referred to as "contribution for Grey Cup" in the 2012-13 fiscal forecast. Of course, just because a provincial government puts something in a budget doesn't mean it will happen, but what's notable is that the CFL has acknowledged B.C. is trying to host the game again in 2014. Here's what CFL director of communications Jamie Dykstra told Mackin:

"A decision on the host city for the 102nd Grey Cup in 2014 has not been made yet. ... I can confirm B.C. has expressed interest in hosting it."

From a league-wide standpoint, this seems ridiculous. The Grey Cup is the league's marquee event and something that can lead to a huge profit for a hosting team, so it makes sense to rotate it amongst as many teams as possible. B.C. just hosted the Grey Cup in 2011, and while that week went quite well, there are plenty of cities that should be in line ahead of Vancouver. To start with, there's Ottawa, which was conditionally promised the 2014 Grey Cup back when the expansion franchise was first announced in 2008. Of course, construction delays in Ottawa have led to them starting play a year later (in 2014 rather than 2013), so it's quite conceivable the first Grey Cup in Ottawa may happen after 2014. Still, there are plenty of alternative destinations that seem more promising than a return to Vancouver so quickly.

First off, there's Winnipeg, where the new Investors Group Field should open this year. The ability to host Grey Cups was a key component of why the municipal and provincial governments chipped in so much money for that field, and 2014 would seem an ideal time to go there; by that time, there will have been two full seasons to work out any kinks at the new field, but Winnipeg will have an experience edge over Hamilton and Ottawa (which both should get Grey Cups in their new stadiums, but those aren't set to open until the 2014 season, and both could well see delays). Beyond that, there's Montreal, which hasn't hosted since 2008, Calgary, which hasn't hosted since 2009, and Edmonton, which hasn't hosted since 2010; each of those cities is quite capable of hosting a Grey Cup in their current facilities. Ideally, if the Grey Cup was handed out in a perfectly fair rotating manner, B.C. would be behind every team but Toronto in line to host again.

There's no good reason to give Vancouver the 2014 Grey Cup from a recent history, overall history or ownership standpoint. As mentioned above, they've held the game extremely recently, but it's also
notable that B.C. is considerably ahead of the historical curve. Vancouver has hosted 15 of the 100 Grey Cups, more than any city ahead of Toronto (which has held 47, but most of those were in the early days of Canadian football). Another factor to consider is ownership. The Grey Cup's a key profit-maker for most teams, so giving three out of four to David Braley (who owns the Lions and the Argonauts) seems exceptionally problematic from an image standpoint. The CFL's had to spend far too much time and energy defending Braley's ownership of two teams as it is; that's going to get much more troubling if he gets another Grey Cup so quickly.

The main reason this is even being mentioned is the cited government contribution, and that's fair. The B.C. government is talking about throwing in a lot of money here; for reference, they chipped in $1.8 million for the 2011 Grey Cup, so this is $900,000 more. That kind of government funding's extremely useful for the CFL and its teams; it can be used to put on a bigger festival without eating into the league's revenues. However, it's worth pointing out that this funding is anything but guaranteed. There's a provincial election on May 14, and respected Canadian poll/election analysis site ThreeHundredEight currently gives the opposition New Democratic Party a 95.5 per cent chance of taking over from the governing Liberals. The NDP has been a notable critic of government spending as it pertains to B.C. Place over the years, so it seems quite conceivable that if they do get in power, they might not be as eager to throw money at hosting another Grey Cup.

Regardless of what happens in that election, though, government funding alone doesn't ensure a Grey Cup will be held locally. In the case of Vancouver and 2014, it seems to be the only factor in favour of bringing the Grey Cup back to the city so quickly. That doesn't stack up all that well against the entire array of reasons not to return to B.C. this fast. We'll see if the league elects to go with the money or choose another path, but don't start making those "102nd Grey Cup Vancouver" banners just yet...

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