The Mayor of North Bay says his city's newly refurbished arena is already getting more interest from concert promoters and convention organizers.
Memorial Gardens was built around the same time as the Sudbury Arena, but recently received a $12-million upgrade for the return of OHL hockey to North Bay.
The Gardens, which hosted its first hockey games over the weekend, now has luxury boxes, a lounge with views of the ice and extra facilities for the team.
But Mayor Al McDonald said concerts and conventions are now considering North Bay for other reasons.
"All the flashy stuff is wonderful, but the most important is the additional seats and the air conditioning.”
McDonald noted North Bay Memorial Gardens can now seat 5,200 people for concerts. The air conditioning will allow the city to book the arena for events during the summer.
'Deciding what is best'
North Bay hockey fan and taxpayer Bob Sneddon got his first look at the new and improved Memorial Gardens on Friday.
"For 12 million dollars, what I see is great, as opposed to $60-70 million? As a taxpayer, this is great,” Sneddon said.
However, every concert and hockey ticket — for at least the next 10 years — comes with an extra $2.50 to pay off the arena renovations.
"I think our citizens realize that if we want to have an arena like this, they have to pay for it,” McDonald said.
A former NHL coach, who now works for a firm that's build many new rinks across the province, said many cities struggle with the question of rebuilding versus renovating.
Gary Green recommends against refurbishing old arenas because more work will be needed in the future, adding that older rinks are made for hockey, not shows and conventions.
"Cities are really beating themselves up at deciding what's best,” Green said.
“The unfortunate thing in the political world is it often takes so long to make a decision and time is money."
Meanwhile, Sudbury city council won't have to wait too long to discuss the arena. A report on the state of the 62-year-old barn is to be debated next week.