As you know, council rejected the proposal to fast track plans for a new arena, thus ensuring it will be at least several more years until this aging structure is replaced.
This is a terrible waste of an opportunity, and a waste of all of our time. Allow me to share with you why I think Greater Sudbury needs a new arena now.
Sudbury Community Arena is one of the oldest, smallest facilities and least functional venues in the OHL. It would require a significant investment to bring it in line with current OHL standards.
Earlier this year, a consultant specializing in arena design came to look at our downtown venue, and he was very clear that Sudbury could and should be doing better.
“As an arena, it’s one of the prettiest little arenas I’ve seen,” Conrad Boychuk said. “But from an operational standpoint, I’ve never seen a building as bad as this one.”
Like many of you, I love our old barn. It provides a great atmosphere and it has served us well. But we need to think bigger and better.
A new arena can bring important economic and other benefits to our city. In addition to provided a better in-game experience to hockey fans, the fact is more and larger concerts, conferences, trade fairs and other community events would contribute considerably to the vibrancy of our city.
Hosting the Memorial Cup, major curling events such as the Brier, international skating events and a steady stream of large concerts and events will never be possible without a new venue.
Imagine how these things can help our economy – hotel rooms, people dining in our restaurants, shopping in our stores. This is an exciting opportunity, and it is before us right now.
It is an opportunity many cities in Ontario have seized.
In the last decade, modern facilities have been built in Windsor, Kingston, Sault Ste. Marie, Guelph, Oshawa and London, while significant upgrades have been made to buildings in Peterborough, Ottawa, Kitchener, Saginaw and Erie.
St. Catharines’ $45-million, 4,500-seat Meridian Centre, home of the Niagara Ice Dogs, will open in September 2014.
In essence, municipal governments in almost every OHL city have brought the public and private sectors together for new facilities. Even our own northern neighbours have surpassed us.
In North Bay, Memorial Gardens has undergone a $12.6-million redesign project to prepare the 56-year-old facility for the OHL’s Battalion, which has moved from Brampton this season.
Similarly, the strategy to build the highly-successful Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie came together in a matter of months. It was built on time and on budget – for $25 million, a third of which came from federal and provincial governments.
When it opened in 2006, Nick Apostle, the Sault’s commissioner of community services, said the building put the city “way ahead of the game” in terms of attracting trade shows, conventions and sporting and entertainment events.
We could wait 10 years to build a new community entertainment centre. But why? Why wait five or 10 years to build a new venue if we are in agreement we need it now?
This is an important question, and I encourage you ask it often as city council enters the final year of its mandate.
I believe Greater Sudburians deserve what every other city on Ontario has. I believe Greater Sudbury deserves a new arena now.
Fabio Belli is the Greater Sudbury city councillor for Ward 8.