Downtown Moncton Inc. is stepping up its campaign in favour of the proposed $105-million sports and entertainment centre that would be built on the site of the old Highfield Square Mall.

The lobby group erected two billboards on the site where the proposed facility would go, saying, "Imagine… The new face of Downtown Moncton."

Lawrence Forbes, the president of Downtown Moncton Inc., said his group is hoping people use their smartphone to activate a code on the billboard to show their support for the project.

"There's going to be a counter on it and we'll be able to update regularly on Facebook and whichever way we want to do about the support is rolling in for it," he said.

So far, he said, the reaction to the billboard campaign has been positive.

"I stood by the sign for almost 45 minutes as people are walking by and stopping and talking and asking questions and there was not one negative comment on it and people are just curious wanting to know what is going on," he said.

Forbes said those opposed to the $105-million project can e-mail or phone their comments in to his group, as well.

This is the latest public display of support the business group has given the proposed centre.

Downtown Moncton Inc. has already committed $2.5 million toward the project.

City purchased land in June

Moncton voted to approve the purchase of the former Highfield Square property in June.

The city paid $6 million for the land and it will also have to pay between $2.5 million and $6 million to demolish the former mall and clean up any hazardous waste on the site.

Moncton is starting negotiations with two national firms which have expressed interest in building the downtown event centre.

A city-sponsored economic analysis said a downtown sports and entertainment complex would serve as an economic anchor in Moncton.

Some councillors have expressed concern that the project could run over budget, similar to other infrastructure projects in the city.

Coun. Brian Hicks has also raised questions about why a city-funded report showing the existing Moncton Coliseum could be renovated for between $27 million and $40 million is not being given more attention.