Gatineau approves deal to replace Robert Guertin arena

By a 12-5 tally, Gatineau city councillors voted Wednesday to replace the aging Robert Guertin arena with a brand new 4,000 seat, multi-use complex, to be built on city land in the east end.

New 4,000 seat home for Gatineau Olympiques to be built east of downtown

Gatineau Olympiques team president Alain Sear (left) presents team jerseys to Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin (centre) and Vision Multisports Outaouais president Alain Sanscartier. (Giacomo Panico / CBC)

By a 12-5 tally, Gatineau city councillors voted Wednesday to replace the aging Robert Guertin arena with a brand new 4,000 seat, multi-use complex, to be built on city land in the east end.

In addition to being the new home of the Gatineau Olympiques junior hockey team, the complex will have three community ice rinks, which the city will rent for a minimum of 7,700 hours per year for the next 25 years.

"I'm extremely happy. I think we've done something good," said Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, flanked by Gatineau Olympiques president Alain Sear, and Vision Multisports Outaouais (VMSO) president Alain Sanscartier.

VMSO is a not-for-profit which will build and operate the complex for 25 years.
The sports complex to replace the Robert Guertin arena will be built in the east end of Gatineau, at the corner of Boulevard de la Cité and Boulevard Maloney Ouest. It will have four ice rinks, including the stadium ice for the Gatineau Olympiques. (VMSO)

Pedneaud-Jobin said Wednesday's vote ends years of uncertainty over, not only the arena in downtown Hull, but also the future of the junior hockey team.

"There's still work to be done, but it's a very important step to save the Olympiques and the taxpayers," said Pedneaud-Jobin.

'It's going to kill our downtown initiations'

The location of the new complex proved controversial for some councillors, who argued that moving an important sporting and cultural centre out of the downtown area goes against the city's revitalization plan.

The site chosen for the new arena is a parcel of city owned land on Boulevard de la Cité, near Boulevard Maloney Ouest. It's surrounded by a combination of big box stores, commercial buildings and large city facilities, including La Maison de la culture and the Centre Sportif.
Sylvie Goneau, Gatineau city councillor for Bellevue, said Wednesday the city should not be moving a cultural and sporting attraction out of the downtown. (Giacomo Panico / CBC)

Sylvie Goneau, the councillor for Bellevue and a candidate for mayor in the upcoming municipal election in November, also took issue with how the project was sole sourced to VMSO.

"We're going ahead with a project saying it's the best cost when we haven't gone out to tender or to bid, and we're saying that it's going to be good for the city, when it's going to kill our downtown initiations," said Goneau.

Supporters however argued most of the actual design and construction work will be tendered by VMSO, and that the existing Robert Guertin arena site will eventually be developed. 

"We cannot do everything in one square kilometre around city hall," said Pedneaud-Jobin. "We have to think about other parts of the city, and as a whole for the city, I think we scored today."

The total bill for the project would be $79 million, with VMSO paying $16 million, the city of Gatineau contributing $36.5 million and the province of Quebec providing $26 million.

Those costs wouldn't include an additional $25 million needed to construct a six-storey parking garage and make infrastructure improvements to nearby sidewalks and streets, costs that would be borne by the city.

To meet the needs of the future complex, it is expected that 1,560 parking spaces would be needed in the area.