Sudbury·Audio

Sudbury city council to take second look at building new arena downtown

Sudbury's arena debate looks to be moving into the second period, as city staff will look at possibly building a new $100-million rink downtown as it re-evaluates the Kingsway Entertainment District.

City staff to layout framework for arena report in February and deliver report sometime in the spring

Three and a half years after choosing to build a new $100 million arena in the proposed Kingsway Entertainment District, Sudbury city staff are now taking a second look at building the rink downtown. (Supplied/City of Greater Sudbury)

Sudbury city council will consider other sites for a new $100 million dollar arena as it re-evaluates the Kingsway Entertainment District.

This includes the downtown parking lots off Minto and Shaughnesy Streets that lost out to the Kingsway location in a council vote three and a half years ago.

City staff say they will also study the possibility of renovating the existing downtown arena, which turns 70 this year.

This came as a shock during Wednesday night's virtual meeting to city councillors who had supported the Kingsway project through years of costly legal battles. 

"It's almost as if we're going to be dealing with the arena again," said city councillor Robert Kirwan. 

"You can't open the whole thing up again after we've gone through LPAT and the superior court. I can't believe what I just heard tonight."

Mayor Brian Bigger asked for the report during last week's council meeting and also asked for the entire city to take a pause on the arena debate until it comes before council sometime this spring.

"I do believe it's important for council to understand what is the factual information and put it all in one place," he said. 

"What is factual? What are the knowns and unknowns? What are the risks?"

"What you basically said tonight is 'We're looking for a report from staff so council can decide where to put the arena,'" replied Kirwan. 

"We have a site. It's on the Kingsway."

The comprehensive staff report will also analyze the possibility of renovating the existing Sudbury Arena, which turns 70 this year. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

There have been questions about how committed Gateway Casinos is to building on a new gambling complex on the Kingsway lands considering some of its financial struggles.

Councillors also say they have yet to hear details of the proposed hotel and are wondering about the general impact of COVID-19 on the entertainment business in the years to come. 

"I think the community does understand and we all understand the need to move forward, but I think what we're also hearing from the community is they want us to take another look," city councillor Deb McIntosh. 

"Because we can. We have that option right now."

City councillor Geoff McCausland agreed it was a good idea to make sure what is thought to be the largest municipal project in the city's history is done right. 

"I don't think there's anything to fear," he told council. 

"If we go through this process and the Kingsway is still by and large the best choice, the best option, then it should be able to stand up on its own two feet."

The city has so far spent $1.2 million on plans for a downtown art gallery, library and convention centre, some of which is to be built on the same land now being re-considered for an arena. (Submitted by the City of Greater Sudbury)

City councillor Bill Leduc wanted to make sure the staff report, a framework for which will be presented to council next month, explains "our legal obligations to the Kingsway Entertainment District and what kind of lawsuits we could be facing."

He also said if the mayor and council are focused on "what the public wants" he believes many Sudburians feel "we don't need a library, we don't need an art gallery" and would rather see the $200 million being borrowed for these major projects spent on roads and sewer pipes.

To date, $2.6 million has been spent on the new arena and the Kingsway Entertainment District. 

The city has spent $1.2 million on plans for an art gallery, library and convention centre, part of which is to be built on the same downtown parking lots city staff are now re-considering for an arena. 

Sudbury city council seems to be going back to the drawing board on its great arena debate. Three and a half years after council voted to build a new 100-million-dollar rink on the Kingsway, staff are now re-evaluating two downtown locations. That raised some voices at the latest city council meeting. We have some of what was said around the issue. 7:42

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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