Councillors in Thunder Bay voted Monday night to build the events centre in the North Core, after hours of deputations and deliberations.

Mayor Keith Hobbs admited he changed his mind about where to build the facility.


Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs (Canadian Press)

"I see no good argument to put this events centre at Innova Park," he said of the south core location.

"I was an Innova Park supporter initially and, after I've seen the evidence … [I want] this facility in downtown North Core."

Linda Rydholm was one of two, out of 13, councillors to vote against the proposal.

"I need more to support this," she said. "It might be that sometime I will. But, I'm saying there should be a gauge of public support."

Larry Hebert was the other councillor to vote against the Phase 2 plan for the events centre.

A group protesting outside city hall wanted council to put the events centre debate to a plebiscite.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson put that question to the consultants.

"But I'm looking at whether they actually, the city councils of the day, went to the community asking for a plebiscite on whether they should actually have an events centre in their community," Johnson said.

Out of a dozen communities studied, not one held a plebiscite.

Can we ‘get the funding?’

Hobbs said accepting the report doesn't mean the events centre will get built.

"We're going to find out if we can afford it," he said.

"We're going to find out if we can get the funding. So don't put the cart before the horse. We're not. We’re doing our homework."

During the meeting, it was emphasized — several times over — the city will not pursue the project if no additional funding is available from the feds or the province.

The consulting team now has a year to work on Phase 3, which involves writing a detailed business plan, figuring out how to pay for the facility and possibly determining what to do with the Fort William Gardens.

The city will do a study of the Fort William Gardens next year, as part of its capital cycle, and will cost about $25,000 to $30,000.