While it took three years into a four-year term, Belli said it's time for this council to finally commit to a major construction project of their choosing.
“With all the things that are happening with council right now, I think it's time, especially in our last year,” Belli said Saturday. “I'm hoping this is something that my colleagues around the table will support. It's a project that's desperately needed and I'm hoping we'll all be on the same page moving forward.”
While there has been talk about building a new rink at some point in the future, Belli said the timeline remains vague – as long as five or 10 years away. He supports a more aggressive schedule, with conceptual drawings in place by the end of this year, with a new rink open and ready to go for the 2015-2016 season.
Belli is bringing a motion to Tuesday's city council meeting calling for a staff to report on options for replacing the arena, complete with design, funding and location options, and potential sponsorship partners.
Estimates prepared by city staff peg the cost of a new arena at between $66 million and $70 million, depending whether it includes an extra ice pad.
Belli said he's not supporting any specific location until staff can prepare more detailed information.
“I wasn't going to force it, as far as location,” he said. “There's potentially numerous locations, but council has to make this a priority. That's the first step.”
If that happens, the city can look at funding possibilities, consult with the public and stakeholders and come up with more detailed proposals. The location would follow. In terms of cost, Belli said they're looking at something between the $25 million Sault Ste. Marie spent on the Essar Centre, and the higher-end multi-use rink Thunder Bay is looking at, which will cost around $92.6 million.
“I think we're looking at a facility in a range of $40 million to $70 million,” Belli said, with a two-rink pad being more expensive.
While the main tenant would be the Sudbury Wolves, Belli said a new facility would be able to host a much broader range of events, from concerts to trade shows, and sporting events like the Briar and the Memorial Cup. The goal would be to make the arena as busy as possible, growing revenue to the point where it's breaking even or turning a profit, as is the case with Budweiser Gardens in London.
“The city gets $1 million in profit from that facility,” Belli said. “So it all depends on what kind of facility you bring in and how many events you can host.”
The London rink is a public-private sector partnership, similar to the model the city is using to build the $63 million biosolids plant. There may be opportunities for private-sector investment, he said, or it may turn out to be more cost-effective for the city to take the lead.
“But now is the time to make those sorts of calculations and see what sort of options we have,” he said. “Sudbury needs a new arena now.”
To support the process, the Sudbury Wolves would be willing to reopen the revenue-sharing agreement it made with the city in 2007, after the team sunk $2 million into arena renovations, team GM Blaine Smith said. The work included construction of 12 corporate boxes and nearly 1,000 club seats.
The hockey club financed the project in return for a long-term lease for the corporate boxes and for operating rights to concessions for all arena events.
But to get a new arena, Smith said that deal can be changed.
“That would certainly entail making concessions to the city in terms of moving forward with a new building, realizing the lion's share of revenue would need to go towards paying for the building,” Smith said. “It's not just for OHL hockey – it's also for other concerts and events that come here. To be able to drive a transport onto the arena floor and unload the staging and the lights is something that can't be done right now.”
Wolves want new denWolves GM Blaine Smith says the team is ready to work with the city to make the new arena happen. With electrical problems last year, and a game fogged out this year, Smith says the need is obvious.
“Right now we have areas in the arena where people don't want to sit, because we have blowers running to try and keep the air flow going around the arena,” he said. “We have an arena that's been around since 1951 and it would be nice to have a modern arena like other teams do.”
New rinks have been or are being being built across the OHL, Smith said, including London, Guelph, Ottawa and Kitchener. A new rink would also make recruiting players easier.
“Eighty per cent of our players come from southern Ontario, and that's where most of the new rinks are found,” Smith said.