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Moncton City Council held a special meeting Wednesday night to approve an application for $25 million from Ottawa for a new downtown entertainment centre. ((CBC))

Moncton city council held a special meeting Wednesday night to approve an application to the federal government requesting $25 million to help build a downtown entertainment centre.

The centre is expected to cost a total of $100 million.  City of Moncton General Manager of Economic Development, Ian Fowler, said it would revitalize Moncton's downtown.

"This project is valuable to securing Moncton's reputation as the entertainment and tourism hub in Atlantic Canada," Fowler said. "Moncton's continued success in hosting major events could only improve with the addition of a downtown multi-purpose facility."

City council is requesting $25 million for the project through P3 Canada, a federal Crown corporation whose mandate is to improve public infrastructure through public-private partnerships.

City manager Jacques Dubé said work on the project has been progressing quickly over the past few months.

"An agreement was signed with a major tenant, and council's endorsement of this proposed funding request will help propel important communications with both the provincial and federal governments," Dubé said.

Council cautious  

Mayor George LeBlanc said the decision to go after the $25 million is an essential step forward.

"Council remains vigilant in its accountability to residents, seeking the best value for dollar," LeBlanc said. "Our decision tonight supports only continuing to explore funding options."

A year ago Moncton council passed a motion stating it would only go ahead with an entertainment centre if the cost could be shared equally with the federal and provincial governments.

LeBlanc says even though $25 million is only a quarter of the total $100 million cost, it's important the City apply in order to keep its options open.

"We're going to try and make up that gap any way we can but it will still always be up to council to decide whether they wish to proceed with this project or not," LeBlanc said.

Several councillors expressed concern that the entertainment centre would be nothing more than a new hockey rink to replace the Moncton Coliseum.

"It's the taxpayers of Moncton who are going to be paying for this and to put that kind of money out and only have it for hockey and sports events," said Coun. Nancy Hoar.

City officials expect a decision on the funding in June.

The Mayor says if the application is accepted council will consult with the public.

"I think it's very important that this be indeed a multi purpose centre, a community or civic centre that people can buy into.  We have the opportunity to do that and I look forward to that discussion," LeBlanc said.