Report finds downtown Saskatoon best location for new arena, price tag up to $375M

A group of consultants have found that downtown Saskatoon is the best place for a joint-use arena and convention centre, and that both TCU Place and SaskTel Centre are coming to the end of their useful lives.

TCU Place and SaskTel Centre coming to end of their useful lives, say consultants

SaskTel Centre is located on the edge of town, but a new arena in the city could be headed for the downtown core. (Albert Couillard/CBC)

A group of consultants have found that downtown Saskatoon is the best place for a joint-use arena and convention centre, and that both TCU Place and SaskTel Centre are coming to the end of their useful lives.

"We're taking the first step in the process of trying to figure out, for the future of these facilities, what path to take so they remain viable in the future, and for years to come," said SaskTel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl after he presented to city council Monday afternoon.

A trio of consultants drafted a report that included a price tag of $325 million to $375 million for a new facility. That's without land costs, and no mention of how the city might raise the initial funds to build the arena.

When Mayor Charlie Clark asked how the city might come up with $375 million without an NHL team to chip in, the presenters reiterated the arena would have low operating costs as it would generate so much revenue.
SaskTel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl answers questions from reporters after presenting a report to city council. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

The downtown location is as controversial as the price, but the consultants told council that in similarly-sized centres, downtown arenas work.

"You want to be where people can come and go to dinner before the event and segue to the arena, or go out for beers afterwards. Where we're located right now that's not what you can do," said Lofdahl.

From the perspective of TCU Place, already located downtown, the report is a win.

"I see from my own perspective a host of situations in Western Canada where they haven't done that well and as a result some facilities thrive and some do not," said TCU Place CEO Bob Korol.

"A good example of that is the issue around Edmonton where you see a brand new arena built downtown but nobody speaks about the convention centre blocks away, based on a riverbank, and what's happening to it. If we're to be proactive, we have to look at these agendas together."

Must modernize to attract big acts

Council seemed to accept the assertion that both the SaskTel Centre, at 30 years old, and TCU Place, which has some parts of the building nearing 50, are close to obsolescence.

"We still have the same number of restrooms we had when the facility opened; concession stands are not as plentiful as they should be," said Lofdahl.

"There are homes in the city with kitchens larger than we have."

Lofdahl told council some substantial events have come to Saskatoon because of an arena thought to be expensive at the time it was built. SaskTel Centre cost about $26 million three decades ago.

"Major concert tours are having 25 to 30 stops in North America. Saskatoon is the 160th largest metropolitan area in North America, so we're competing for 25-30 stops on a tour with other communities with new arenas," said Lofdahl.

The report is preliminary, and will be followed by an administrative report from the city. Lofdahl likened the report to "step one of 10" in the construction of a new arena.

The full study can be found here.

About the Author

Bridget Yard

Reporter

Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.