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EDITORIAL: Follow the bouncing ball

Newfoundland Growlers owner Dean MacDonald says he now believes the City was never really serious about giving up management of Mile One Centre. — Newfoundland Growlers photo
Newfoundland Growlers owner Dean MacDonald. — Newfoundland Growlers photo

So, as a member of the public, do you feel like you’re being played like a fiddle?

Monday morning, it was all drama: after hints dropped about the future of the Growlers hockey franchise potentially having its last season in St. John’s, team owner Dean MacDonald was readying an announcement on the team’s future for Tuesday.

The team, along with the St. John’s Edge basketball team, are in negotiations with St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE) over the costs and benefits of Mile One Stadium.

Not willing to be upstaged, the City of St. John’s, which owns SJSE, decided to strike first, issuing its own news release and announcing its own news conference, a day earlier than the MacDonald announcement.

“The City of St. Johns and St. Johns Sports and Entertainment Ltd. (SJSEL) would like to provide an update on the current offer to the Edge and the Growlers. SJSEL has negotiated in good faith with both the Edge and the Growlers to achieve a long-term lease agreement. There have been many inaccuracies in the public as to the various positions of the parties. We understand that Mr. MacDonald has announced a press conference for Tuesday, Sept. 17, and this has caused much speculation as to the future of the Growlers in the city. City council wishes to inform the public of its position in advance of this news conference,” the city’s release said. “It is important that the public know the Growlers’ position is that they take over control of food and beverage revenue, which would increase the SJSE subsidy by in excess of half a million dollars.”

There’s always the chance that, by the time this editorial is printed, there will be a deal, and the city and the two sports teams will be best friends and partners, and all bygones will be bygones.

So, first blood in the latest public relations battle about pro sports in St. John’s is drawn by the city, quick off the mark.

Maybe too quickly: the city’s news release went out slightly after noon, promising a 4 p.m. news conference with Mayor Danny Breen, but by 3 p.m., the news conference was off, as was the joint Growlers/Edge newser, with the teams saying that the details offered up in the city’s news release were different from their understanding of what was on the table, and actually constituted a new offer by the city.

So back and forth we go. There’s always the chance that, by the time this editorial is printed, there will be a deal, and the city and the two sports teams will be best friends and partners, and all bygones will be bygones.

The feelings of anyone who is keen on pro sports staying in St. John’s will have been successfully played.

Does the public need to know what’s at stake before deals are struck?

Absolutely.

Do we need duelling news conferences and a constant airing of respective grievances?

No.

Make a deal or don’t make a deal.

But if you’re going to engage in a public game of one-upmanship, at least put all the details on the table.

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