Sudbury·Sudbury City Hall

Councillor questions city's decision to shortlist Sudbury-based TESC for new arena build

Three companies have been selected to bid on the construction of Sudbury’s proposed events centre — but there are questions about whether one of those bids approaches a conflict of interest.

Local contractor and Wolves owner vying against PCL and EllisDon, two industry heavyweights, for contract

Greater Sudbury city councillor Mark Signoretti says he questions how TESC Contracting avoided any conflict of interest in its bid to build the city's new events centre. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Three companies have been selected to bid on the construction of Sudbury's proposed events centre — but there are questions about whether one of those bids approaches a conflict of interest. 

City staff presented the short list to city council Tuesday night, which was a whittled down list from the eight original applicants.

The finalists include local developer TESC Contracting, which will be submitting a co-bid with Kitchener-based Ball Construction.

The other two proponents are Ellis Don Construction and PCL Constructors.

Both Ellis Don and PCL have worked on facilities like Sudbury's proposed events centre before — Ellis Don on London's Budweiser Gardens and the Dartmouth Multipad Arena in Dartmouth, N.S, and PCL on the Red Deer Arena in Red Deer AB, and the Bell MTS Centre in Winnipeg, MB.

Dario Zulich (centre), seen a public hearing in January, listens as members of the community voice their opinions about development of his proposed entertainment district. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

'What ranks them so high?'

But Councillor Mark Signoretti expressed some concern over including TESC on the short list.

"As much as we are looking at acquiring the land for the events centre, we currently don't own the land, but the proponent that runs the Sudbury Wolves has the land, is also on this bid and shortlisted," Signoretti said.

Dario Zulich, who is listed as the director of TESC in corporate reports, currently co-owns the land the events centre will be built on. He also owns the Ontario Hockey League team the Sudbury Wolves, which will be a major tenant in the new centre.

And it was, in part,  Zulich's vision for an entertainment district on his stretch of Kingsway land that was a catalyst to locating the new arena on the eastern outskirts of the city.

Added up, Signoretti told CBC News to his eye, it approaches a conflict of interest.

"I don't know what their qualifications are," he added. "I've never heard of them building an events centre before."

"I don't see any credentials... what ranks them so high?"

Toronto-based Cumulus Architects unveiled their vision for for the Kingsway Enertainment District in November. A request for proposal for the construction of the events centre will be sent out in the coming months to three selected developers. (CIty of Greater Sudbury)

'Best practices' will guide competitors' bids, says city

TESC did win the contract to provide the steel for Sault Ste. Marie's Essar Centre, which opened in 2006.

It's co-bidder, Ball Construction, has worked on the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, and the Milton Sports Centre, among others.  

Eric Labelle, the city's clerk, said the process of selecting the finalists was transparent, and despite the connection between Zulich's bid to build an arena and the hockey team he owns that will play there, there is no conflict of interest.

"I'm not seeing  a situation where the potential tenant would have any involvement in the design," Labelle told city council. "The proponents are going to submit very detailed submissions using consultants to design this, according to best practices."

Signoretti said he represents a "silent majority" which questions how Zulich's construction company sizes up among the other interested bidders.

"[PCL and Ellis Don] are big, they're well known companies, so I would have a comfort level with them," Signoretti said. "But having that third one in the mix. It just seems a little too coincidental."

"My concern is that the optics doesn't sit well with me. Right through his whole process, everyone knows I'm not a fan of the outcome."

The city said it plans on making its decision on the winning bidder some time in the fall.

About the Author

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca