Events centre consultants push north core location

The consultants hired by the city of Thunder Bay say the proposed events centre would have a bigger economic impact in the North Core of the city, rather than Innova Park.

Thunder Bay residents hear from consultants who say events centre could re-vitalize the north downtown core

The consultants hired by the city of Thunder Bay say the proposed events centre would have a bigger economic impact in the city’s North Core, rather than Innova Park.

The downtown location has more businesses surrounding it, and would create a larger short-term spinoff for the city. They said that, in the long-term, a new events centre could also re-vitalize the core.

That made sense to city resident Ben Urbanski, who attended a Wednesday night open house in which the consultants clarified plans for parking.

At a Wednesday night meeting, Thunder Bay residents heard from consultants who have been studying the in-and-outs of a proposed events centre. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

"You need things to do before and after the game," Urbanski said. "Both for the economy, and for the people going to the event. And, I think downtown is a lot more suited [for walking] to venues."

Consultants put forth a proposed solution to the parking dilemma for the new events centre. However, whether the centre is built in the North Core or Innova Park, people will still have to do some walking.

Should the multiplex be built near the waterfront, there would be room for 350 cars right below the arena.

Combined with 1,700 spots in the North Core, the consultants said that should be more than enough space for cars.

With these numbers, Thunder Bay resident Todd Randall said he thinks that takes Innova Park out of the running.

"We make choices about what to spend money on,’ Randall said.

"Do we want to spend money on a huge parking lot around Innova Park, and all that pavement and maintaining that over the ensuing years, or do we want to make some investments in more intensive infrastructure that may be cheaper over the long term?"

Walking vs. waiting

The consultants said, if the events centre gets built in the North Core, spectators would walk for a maximum of 12 minutes from wherever their vehicles were parked.

Over at Innova Park, that walk would be roughly eight minutes, however event-goers can expect to sit in traffic for 10 minutes after leaving an event.

That’s OK for Chris Hildebrand, one local who supports the Innova location because of its "ease of parking, ease of access in and out, [and] it's centralized in the city."

The consultants noted a multiplex at Innova Park would also require a new intersection on the Thunder Bay Expressway — something that would need the permission of the Ministry of Transportation.