A Moncton business group is applauding the city's land deal that could be the first step toward the construction of a downtown sports and entertainment complex.

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc announced the $6-million land deal on Tuesday, which is the city’s preferred site for the complex. The area is in the Highfield Square area of the city.

The city has until next March to finalize a deal and that means it will have to come up with a business plan on financing the project.

Louis Leger, the president of Downtown Moncton Inc., said the business group supports the plan because it could become an important economic generator.

"If it's a $100-million project, I mean, this could generate an extra, another $100 million of all sorts of other projects around it. So that's why it's so important," Leger said.

"Now we can come up with concepts real concepts and DMCI is full partners with the city. We've been talking concepts but now we'll be able to truly talk about concepts."

Highfield Square officials announced in January that the shopping centre will be closing in the fall.

After reviewing many sites for a downtown convention centre, the top sites were shortlisted and then land appraisals and environmental assessments were undertaken.

The Highfield Square location was selected as the best option, based on site characteristics, location and transportation; costs of acquiring development land; urban context and physical elements; and economic impact opportunities in the downtown.

Financial options

The city has been after a downtown convention centre complex for several years.

Last December, P3 Canada, a federal Crown corporation, rejected Moncton’s funding request of $25 million toward the centre.

The application process started in June 2010 to build the new centre that would replace the Moncton Coliseum, which is more than 40 years old.

Even though the city has picked a preferred site for the centre, there are still questions about how it will be financed.

Leger said his business group has committed $2.5 million towards the convention centre project.

"[The funding] can be leveraged and so on so it's very important. We are full partners and we believe in this and applaud the mayor's leadership," Leger said.

Moncton’s mayor said the city now has to figure out how it will pay for the project. LeBlanc said the city could consider a public-private partnership or a different financing option.

"We will have to determine: what are the options in moving forward whether it is a 3-P partnership of some kind whether it is a something that is funded by the federal provincial and municipal governments on an equal basis. These are things we need to work out and then we can cost it out," LeBlanc said.