A report looking at the state of arenas in Greater Sudbury should be a catalyst to start debate on replacing Sudbury Arena, a city councillor says.
At council’s Sept. 25 meeting, Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau said the 61-year-old rink is showing its age and the city needs to replace it.
“I’m not suggesting for a second that a new arena be built by this council this year or next year,” Barbeau said. “But it’s high time we started to plan for a new facility in the next five or 10 years.”
Catherine Matheson, the city’s general manager of community development, said a report on the state of the city’s arenas should be ready by late fall.
“We’re just waiting for the final review of the buildings to be completed,” Matheson said. “So we’re reviewing right now all the physical structures of the arenas ... It’s very close to completion.”
The debate over the future of Sudbury’s biggest rink was sparked by a power outage at the arena Sept. 14 that led to a delay of a Sudbury Wolves pre-season game.
While the blackout was not limited to the arena, it did generate a response from Sudbury Wolves general manager Blaine Smith, concerning the condition of the rink.
“There aren’t too many of these old rinks still standing in the province,” Smith told Northern Life earlier this month. “There is a reason why the City of Kingston and the City of Sault Ste. Marie recently built new facilities after suffering through regular power outages and other problems at their old rinks.”
Smith praised city staff for keeping the arena functional, but said there are limits to what can be done.
“As the main tenant, we see the arena getting long in the tooth and we can see these types of problems becoming more commonplace with 60-year-old electrical wiring, a leaky roof, drainage issues, dampness and numerous other issues that we see on a regular basis.
“We remain hopeful that the City of Greater Sudbury will begin to make plans for a new hockey facility like other OHL centres have done and provide a more enjoyable environment to better serve the hockey and entertainment fans of Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.”
Sudbury’s arena is among the oldest facilities being used in the OHL, along with the rinks in Peterborough, Erie, Saginaw and Owen Sound.
Barbeau said the debate is long overdue.
“Kudos to Blaine for bringing that to the attention of the media,” he said. “Kudos to our staff, as well, for ensuring a 61-year-old facility continues to be well-maintained and operational ... But it is high time that as a city, we started to look at building a new facility, one that can host the Wolves as the main tenant.”
Barbeau said a new rink could be a catalyst for economic development for Sudbury, allowing the city to host events that the current arena can’t accommodate.
“We need a facility we can be proud of, to bring bigger concerts to our city … to bring bigger hockey events to the community,” he said. “This is never an easy decision, and it’s one that may divide council at times. But we need to get the community behind this to move it forward.”
With files from Laurel Myers