New Brunswick

George LeBlanc says Moncton downtown centre 'at a crossroads'

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc says he remains optimistic about the stalled downtown centre project, which is already overbudget, and is calling for the support of residents.

Mayor remains optimistic federal and provincial governments will come through with funding

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc says he's concerned about the negative comments surrounding the fact the city has missed several key deadlines for the downtown centre because of a lack of money. (CBC)

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc says he remains optimistic about the stalled downtown centre project, which is already overbudget, and is calling for the support of residents.

Construction of Moncton's proposed downtown entertainment and sports complex was expected to begin on the former Highfield Square property in the spring or summer. (Courtesy City of Moncton)
"It's important that we stand up for this project and that we don't allow the negative comments to outweigh the positives," he said.

Construction of the proposed $107-million centre was supposed to start this spring or summer, but everything has been put on hold since December because the federal and provincial governments have failed to help cover the costs.

LeBlanc says he's concerned about the delays, but he thinks the other levels of government will realize the downtown centre is an investment in the future of the city and the province.

"I think we're at a crossroads when it comes to this project," said LeBlanc.

"We can sit back and do nothing and watch as our position as a sports and entertainment centre erodes, watch as economic prosperity passes us by, or we can take action to ensure the future prosperity of our downtown and our city."

LeBlanc said the downtown centre is an important project for the city's future.

Moncton businesses have been putting $250,000 a year for 10 years into a trust fund to help pay for the downtown sports and entertainment centre. (CBC)
Even though nothing has been built yet, the cost of the project has continued to increase, city councillors were told at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The various consultants who were hired to help negotiate the deal want an additional $154,000 for extra work they did, such as looking into a request from council to add more seats to the facility.

The centre also needs another $150,000 for legal fees, in the event the city actually chooses a developer to start the work, staff said.

Several councillors said they were surprised that money to pay lawyers to close the deal was not included in the original budget.

Anne Poirier Basque, the executive director of Downtown Moncton Inc., has said she's frustrated by all the delays.

But she said she is still hoping the money will come through because her members have already started putting $250,000 a year for 10 years into a trust fund to help pay for the centre.

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