Concern from bidders about the Kingsway Entertainment District just part of RFP process, city says

The City of Greater Sudbury is moving ahead with plans for a controversial new arena project, despite concerns from construction companies about the potential for conflict of interest involving one of the bidders.

Construction titans PCL, Ellis Don on shortlist to build new arena, along with Sudbury-based TESC

Sudbury's new arena at the Kingsway Entertainment District is expected to open in 2025. (Erik White/CBC )

The City of Greater Sudbury is moving ahead with plans for a new arena project, despite concerns from construction companies about a potential conflict of interest involving one of the bidders.

In February, as part of an addendum to a Request for Proposal (RFP) package for a new, $100 million arena, the city published a list of 40 questions–  and answers–  to clear the air of any concerns bidders may have about the process. 

Some of those concerns raised in the list involve Sudbury-based contractor TESC, which is heavily involved with private developments surrounding the arena's site, and whose CEO, Dario Zulich, first sold the city on his vision for an entertainment district in the city's east end in 2017.

"This is an unfair requirement to be evaluated given one of the proponents responding to this bid solicitation is the developer of the casino and hotel and has the ability to influence his/her design to compliment the facilities," reads one of the questions.

Zulich, whose plan for the KED includes a hotel and casino –  is also owner of the OHL's Sudbury Wolves, who will be the arena's anchor tenant.

Bidders PCL and Ellis Don, the other two companies on the shortlist, also raised questions about the project's design integration with a casino and hotel, both private investments with builders who are not obliged to follow the city's timelines for the construction of a new arena.

"We are unclear as to how the proponent can ensure that our schedule and design are integrated with the casino and hotel development," reads another of the questions.

"Once the city has an approved project completion agreement (PCA), the city will work collaboratively with the hotel, casino and design-build teams on the site design and construction schedules," it says in the city's response. "All appropriate and relevant information will be shared with all the design-build teams as the schedules for both the hotel and casino advance."

Kevin Fowke is the general manager of corporate services for the City of Greater Sudbury. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

An equitable process, city says

Kevin Fowke, the city's general manager of corporate services, told CBC News that publishing this Q&A  list was a way to ensure that all parties – including parties that may still submit bids – that the playing field is level.

"Whether it's a Q&A or whether it's some specific addendum which modifies an initial procurement, that's issued to all equally at the same time and it's in the public domain," Fowke said. "So that it's fair and equitable to everyone that's participating in the process." 

Fowke said he wasn't surprised by the amount of attention the list has received since being published, considering the importance of the project ahead.

"As far as projects go, this is one of the larger ones that we've undertaken as a city," Fowke said. "It's an important build for us. It's an important project…but I think people are just wanting to know and wanting to make sure that we're following the processes that we have in place to ensure fairness among bidders and to ensure that there's no conflict of interest."