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Spinoffs for tourism sector anticipated (2/02)

By Katherine Thompson Nelson The completion of Dynamic Earth in 2003 is expected to be a boon to the tourism industry in Sudbury, city officials predict.

By Katherine Thompson Nelson

The completion of Dynamic Earth in 2003 is expected to be a boon to the tourism industry in Sudbury, city officials predict.

Dynamic Earth, a major tourist attraction that will house exhibit galleries, a theatre and an underground component, will increase tourist visits to the city, says Rob Skelly, manager of tourism programs and partnerships for the City of Greater Sudbury.

"The Big Nickel Mine used to attract 50,000 visits a year," Skelly says. "The vast majority of those were out-of-town visitors. The consultants that did the feasibility study on the project estimated 70, 000 (visitors to Dynamic Earth) would be from out of town the first year." Over time those numbers should grow - the long-term estimate is "in the 100,000 range," Skelly adds.

It will also increase tourists' length of stay in Sudbury, Skelly adds. "Because of the scope of the new attraction, it would be almost impossible to do justice to Science North and Dynamic Earth in one day - that means one night's hotel stay, and possibly two," Skelly says.

He predicts that the Lorne Street area of Sudbury will see "some really nice development" as a result of the project. When businesses in the vicinity were asked whether they would expand if Dynamic Earth were built, 28 possible projects were identified, he says.

"Those investments were in the several millions of dollars," Skelly says.

The hospitality and tourism sector stands to benefit "enormously" from the project, says Mia Boiridy, the director of Dynamic Earth.

"Our target is to attract 107,000 visitors in the first year of operation," Boiridy says. "That will roughly translate to about $13 million in tourist revenue for the Sudbury area."

Construction of the attraction has created over 300 jobs for the community, she says, and when completed, Dynamic Earth will provide the equivalent of 18 new full-time jobs directly and 128 new jobs through tourism.

Not all will be full-time positions, but with three post-secondary institutions in Sudbury, "there is a large supply of (student) labour interested in casual and part-time employment," Bioridy says.

Construction of Dynamic Earth has been ongoing and is proceeding on schedule, says Bioridy.

"We're about to award the structural steel tenders in the next few weeks," Boiridy says, and construction will continue through the winter. "We're hoping to have the building completed by the summer of 2002."

The project is being built on the former site of Sudbury's Big Nickel Mine. Once the building is up, exhibits will be installed. Officials hope to have everything in place by December 2002, in order to "iron out all the kinks by the time we open to visitors in the spring of 2003," she says.

The building will house two exhibit galleries and a theatre in addition to the underground portion of the attraction. The initial proposal was for a facility twice that size. When full funding was not forthcoming, plans were revised to build part of the project now, and proceed with the remainder at a later date. The 1,800-square-metre building currently under construction has been designed to ease future expansion.

Funding for the $12.85-million project is now at the 80 per cent mark, says Boiridy. Dynamic Earth has received $4,998,000 in funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and $2 million from the City of Greater Sudbury.

FedNor contributed $500,000 to fund the feasibility study, market analysis and initial planning, says Audrey Dugas, executive director of the Science North Foundation.

Donations are also coming in through the Big Change Capital Campaign - $279,850 thus far towards the campaign's $2-million goal. Significant contributions have come from Greater Sudbury Utilities ($127,500), the Toronto Stock Exchange Community Giving fund ($30,000), Science North Staff ($17,000) and the F. Jean MacLeod Trust, whose $100,000 donation will be recognized on an exhibit on the Sudbury basin.

"We're just in the midst of finalizing our marketing and communications plan," Dugas says. "There will be much broader exposure and visibility of the project itself and of the capital campaign over the next few months."

Visitors to Dynamic Earth will be taken through 120 years of mining history, Boiridy explains. The drifts of the former Big Nickel Mine have been extended about 18 metres (60 feet), and there will be a multi-level mine where children can use equipment adapted to their size.

One of the premier attractions will be the elevator ride to the underground exhibit areas, she says.

"The chasm show will be something totally different," Bioridy says. As a glass-walled elevator descends into a trench cut 18 metres (60 feet) beneath the building, an elaborate multimedia show will be projected onto the rock face.

Much support is anticipated from the mining sector since it will be an educational showcase for their industry, she says.

Tourism initiatives are also being planned elsewhere in the community. The Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre in Capreol is considering expansion, and there is a group that is developing a waterslide park in Chelmsford, Skelly says.

Dynamic Earth will complement these and other tourist ventures in the area, he explains.

"What Sudbury is developing here is a real critical mass of tourist attractions," Skelly says.

"Outside of Toronto, Niagara Falls, maybe London (Ontario), we have probably the largest concentration of tourist attractions in Ontario. Together, they can sustain holding visitors for two or three days."