Moncton city council has started its search for a developer to build its future downtown centre at the Highfield Square property and is looking for ideas on how to finance it.

City officials said because the federal government is refusing to put up any money for a potential new sportsplex, the city is looking to the private sector to help come up with the $80 million to $100 million needed for the project.

Jacques Dubé, the city manager, said any interested companies will need deep pockets.

"Their objective will be to make money, our objective will be to save money. Somewhere between saving money and making money there may be a common ground there," he said.

"Whatever partner comes to the table is going to have to have serious financial resources and serious experience in actually pulling off a project like this."

The City of Moncton — which is planning to buy 4.5 hectares of land for the project — is hoping to receive tenders from potential builders by the end of March.

The proposal is for the sportsplex to occupy about 2.5 hectares, leaving room for condominiums and retail stores to increase the downtown tax base and help pay for the project.

"There are over 15,000 people that work in our downtown. Not all of those 15,000 live here in the downtown," said Dubé.

The City of Moncton is also offering to help potential developers move the Moncton Lions Senior Citizens Centre and the Beaver Curling Club to the new downtown location.

While councillors unanimously agreed to continue looking for a developer for the site, they disagreed on the number of seats in the future arena.

Some said a 5,000-seat arena is all the City of Moncton can afford, while others want a larger arena that seats up to 10,000 people.