A recent report commissioned by the City of Moncton shows it could renovate the Moncton Coliseum for as little as $27 million, significantly less than the $105-million estimate given to a new downtown sports and entertainment centre.
The report, which was obtained by CBC News after filing a Right to Information and Protection of Privacy request, was intended to be finished in the spring of 2012, but it was delayed by a year.
The report prepared in March outlined three options for renovating the coliseum. The estimated costs for the three options ranged from $27 million to $40 million.
The consultant suggested building a three-storey box on top of the existing Moncton Coliseum and converting it into a brand new building.
Coun. Brian Hicks said he is wondering why this report appears to be getting so little attention in the public compared to the more expensive alternatives.
"We've never really looked at any of the options. It's just been this option as the proposal that's going to save the day downtown. I would like to have that discussion," Hicks said.
"I would like to have that discussion with business people in the city, with the chamber of commerce, with Downtown Moncton Inc., about what other options are there."
No one from the city was available for an interview about the report.
Moncton council voted in favour of purchasing the 4.5-hectacre former Highfield Square property on Main Street for $6 million last month.
The city will also have to spend between $2.5 million and $6 million to demolish the old mall and clean up any hazardous waste on the site, including hydrocarbons and asbestos.
Moncton council also agreed to start negotiations with two national firms which have expressed interest in building the $105-million downtown event centre.
Consultant dismissed renovating coliseum
Hicks raised questions about renovating the coliseum last month when two consultants presented a city-commissioned economic analysis on the proposed downtown centre.
David Campbell, an economic development consultant, said cities get more bang for their buck by building downtown rather than revamping a facility outside the city centre.
Hicks said he thinks the real numbers could be a lot less with a bit of competition, especially if the federal and provincial governments buy into the project.
"You'd be splitting that three ways, which I think would be very attractive to the province and the feds because it's less money," he said.
However, P3 Canada, a federal Crown corporation, has previously turned down Moncton’s funding request of $25 million toward the larger downtown centre.
The downtown centre is expected to include a 10,000-seat arena and a convention centre, as well as a shopping centre, restaurants, condos and an outdoor space.
A city councillor has already expressed concerns the project’s final price tag could hit $165 million.