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New Sudbury arena could cost at least $80M, report advises

Consultant recommends city strike committee to choose best spot to provide maximum benefit
A new arena will likely cost at least $80 million and run an annual operating deficit of $825,000, says a consultant's report prepared to give city council a better idea of what a new events centre would involve. File photo

A new arena in Sudbury will likely cost at least $80 million and run an annual operating deficit of $825,000, says a consultant's report prepared to give city council a better idea of what a new events centre would involve.

By comparison, the current Sudbury Arena on Elgin Street ran a deficit of about $700,000 last year.

The report by Ron Bidulka of PricewaterhouseCoopers says the cost of a new facility could rise to $100 million if the city has to buy land, build parking or faces environmental concerns.

The centre would include a 5,800-seat arena, and the report outlines criteria for determining the best location: where there is enough parking; where the facility would generate the most economic impact; where the public and private sectors would benefit most; and where the centre would act as a stimulus for the development of an emerging area or the redevelopment of an existing urban area.

The cost of building a new facility could be offset by investment from the private sector, as other cities have done, the report says.

“While these projects are typically owned by the public sector, the operation of the facility is sometimes contracted to a national or North American company specializing in venue management and connected to the entertainment industry,” the report says.

“Similarly, the sports franchise is privately owned and a key tenant in the facility. The development of a new SEC in Greater Sudbury may have the ability to attract private-sector investment into the funding of the project.” 

Some communities have built downtown — Guelph built the Sleeman Centre in its downtown rather than on a developer-provided parcel of land in a suburban location. Others have put their new arenas/event centres where land is cheapest, such as Medicine Hat, which built the Canalta Centre in the suburbs, as did Barrie when they built the Molson Centre.

In Sudbury, businessman Dario Zulich has proposed building on land he and his partners own on the Kingsway. However, downtown groups have been lobbying hard to keep the rink downtown. The report acknowledges the location is controversial.

“Because of the strong opinions on where an SEC should be located, the selection of a preferred site should be done through a process that is visible, transparent, responsible and meaningful,” the report says.

“More than the actual design of a facility, site evaluation and selection will be scrutinized by the community-at-large. When ultimately selecting a location, it is important that the community feel comfortable that the criteria used to evaluate and ultimately select a location are relevant, appropriately weighted and that the process is transparent.”

So the report recommends a site selection team be established to evaluate potential locations and score each of them according to the priorities developed in the report.

The recommendations will be discussed at the March 7 city council meeting. Councillors will decide whether to simply accept the report, decide to move forward and prepare financial estimates for the 2018 budget. If they agree to proceed, they will also strike a committee to evaluate possible locations.

The committee would report back by June on a final list of sites, when the city would issue the actual request for proposals for the centre. Zulich, who also owns the Sudbury Wolves, would be asked to agree to a "term sheet" of key lease terms with the Sudbury Wolves.