One of the companies competing for part of the contract for Moncton's new entertainment centre is warning the city to be careful about the number of seats it wants.

City council has decided to pursue a development with 7,500 seats for the Highfield Square property downtown.

But Mayor George LeBlanc and the Greater Moncton Hotel Association are calling for the centre to have at least 9,000 seats. There is also an online petition that is calling for more than 9,000 seats.

Moncton Downtown Centre

UK consultants hired to oversee construction of an entertainment and sports complex in downtown Moncton. (Courtesy City of Moncton)

However, Ken Noakes of facilities management company SMG Canada says event promoters aren't fixated on seat numbers.

Noakes says promoters often place more importance on how easily they can get acts in and out of a building and whether the ceiling is high enough to handle stage lighting and sound systems.

"The higher the building, the easier it is to put in those major shows," said Noakes. "The building that I most recently ran in Kingston, we were able to somehow squeeze Carrie Underwood into that 5,000-seater."

Noakes says what promoters and artists hate is having empty seats at a performance.

Noakes says filling 7,500 seats on a regular basis is a lot better than winding up with many shows in a 9,000-seat arena that have many empty seats.

"People like to sell out. People want there to be demand," he said. "Artists love to walk into a full stadium. It's good for their egos and it's what brings them back."

"So a full house, night after night, every time they play in a market, is good for them." he said. "It's good for the facility and it's good for the city."

The new facility is to replace the 40-year-old Moncton Coliseum, which has about 6,700 seats.

The prospective developers for the project, EllisDon and Bird Construction Inc., have until mid-August to prepare their bids.

Moncton hopes to obtain funding commitments of $24-million from both the federal and provincial governments to make the downtown centre feasible.

The total cost is expected to be in the $100-million range.