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Greater Sudbury council selects site for new arena/events centre

True North Strong group advances vision for east-end entertainment district
True North Strong Conceptual Drawing
True North Strong arena conceptual.

After a lengthy and passionate debate on June 27, Greater Sudbury council has chosen The Kingsway as the location for a new arena/events centre on land owned by businessman Dario Zulich.

The project is estimated to cost between $80 million to $100 million.

The Kingsway is one of the main east-west arterial roads in Sudbury where most of the city’s new retail and hospitality development has occurred over the past two decades.

The location of where the development should go – either on the Kingsway or downtown – became a hotly contested and polarizing public debate in the weeks leading up to the vote.

The city is looking for a replacement for the antiquated downtown Sudbury Arena, built in 1951. It is the city’s main arena and the home of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves, owned by Zulich.

Zulich’s True North Strong group to put a massive entertainment and recreational development on The Kingsway that includes a two-pad arena, a motorsports park, soccer dome, hotel and retail development and a casino.

The first vote, on the downtown location, resulted in a 6-6 tie, which in municipal politics is the same as a no vote. The second vote, on the Kingsway location, easily passed 10-2.

After the meeting, Mayor Brian Bigger said while he voted for downtown, he can get behind The Kingsway project.

"Absolutely -- the vision and the whole concept of having an entertainment district is very, very exciting," Bigger said.

"Now (we'll be) working in conjunction with the True North Strong group, and I thank them for all the work that they've done.

"We've seen the responses from a number of operators of hotel chains and the casino, and they see the excitement of an entertainment district. I want to make sure these things actually do happen."

"We're excited about the community moving forward and there's an opportunity now to build," said Andrew Dale, spokesman for the True North Strong group. "We're certainly excited."

Jeff MacIntyre, chair of the Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area, was clearly disappointed.

"We've bet on one developer over our entire downtown," MacIntyre said. "That's what happened tonight."

He wasn't surprised that council backed The Kingsway after downtown was rejected, because Sudburians want to see something done. And he's hoping that council's support for turning downtown into an arts and culture hub is more than just words.

"There were a lot of promises made tonight to the downtown, to make up for what's been taken out,” he said.

“We've seen promises for an art gallery, we've seen promises for a library, promises for a Synergy Centre (convention hall). Council has a long way to go to make that back up."

Prior the vote, both city staff and a private consultant – Ron Bidulka of PriceWaterhouseCoopers – recommended a new arena/event centre be built downtown to maximum the business and economic development spinoffs and rejuvenate the core, despite concerns over soil conditions and parking constraints.