City councillors in Thunder Bay heard a lot of concerns about the proposed event centre at their Monday night meeting.

Mayor Keith Hobbs and other members of council were on the defensive, after six speakers said building an event centre was a bad move.

Many claimed the city's finances were a mess, and the centre is beyond its means.

Eventually, Hobbs had enough of the speakers' requests to put the issue to a public vote.

"How can you ask for a plebiscite when you don't even know of the economic impact of the event centre?” he said.

Rod Bosch

Rod Bosch, a member of the Citizens for a Waterfront Event Centre, said council should listen to the consultants it hired, and stick with their recommendations. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Citizens for a Waterfront Event Centre, the group in favour of building the centre in the downtown north core, spoke for the first time at council.

Committee member Rod Bosch said some of the earlier speakers will never trust what city officials say about the price tag and location.

"Some are irate. Some are misinformed, and have no intention of becoming informed,” he said.

“They are entitled to their opinions. We are entitled to ours. And our opinion is that you're moving in the right direction."

Council wound up approving a $1.4 million contract to start designing the centre. That work will be done by the end of June. Once the design is complete, applications will be made for federal and provincial grants to help pay for construction.

Kim Coreau

Kim Coreau, who is running for the position of councillor-at-large in the municipal election, said people need to be asked if they want an event centre. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Bosch noted this was a step in the right direction.

“Was phase two not to help us determine where the event centre should be built? And therefore, it was determined to be the downtown waterfront,” he said.

“That would lead us to phase three, which would be looking to building on that site."

But others wanted council to discuss holding a plebiscite on the event centre.

"We have to take a chance and ask them, once and for all,” said Kim Coreau, a Thunder Bay resident who intends to run for the position of councillor-at-large in the next municipal election.

"I've heard from citizens, 'Just ask the simple question: Do we want the multiplex or not?'"