Sudbury

Bubble bursting? Groups butt heads as pair of sports domes approach reality

It’s beginning to feel like a race to the finish for two groups who’ve been butting heads to each build their own sports domes in Sudbury.

Two groups have forged separate plans for similar facilities

Two separate groups each want to put up their own indoor sports domes in Sudbury, similar to the one pictured above. (CBC)

It's beginning to feel like a race to the finish for two groups who've been butting heads to each build their own sports domes in Sudbury.

The Sudbury District Sports Club (SDSC) has entered into an agreement with the French catholic school board and private investors to build a sports dome at École Sacré-Coeur, near downtown Sudbury.

The group says it's just a few city permits away from beginning construction this summer, with plans for the facility to be operational in November.

Meanwhile, the Fabio Belli Foundation says it's moving ahead with plans to build a publicly-funded, year-round sports bubble at Lasalle Secondary School in New Sudbury.

In April, the then-Liberal government announced $4 million had been earmarked to make the Belli Foundation bubble a reality.

Both domes would feature soccer fields accessible year-round and would also offer a multitude of other sports and activities.

Uncertainty with Ford government

However, there's some uncertainty surrounding the Belli Foundation's project with Doug Ford's more austere Progressive Conservative provincial government settling in.

In an email to CBC News, the province's Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport said it's too early to provide a comment on the $4 million budgeted for the Belli Foundation's planned sports dome.

A ministry spokesperson says staff is still being briefed on all funding decisions as the transition to Ford's PC government continues.

Michel Larivière, a board member with the Belli Foundation, says he still hopes the group's sports dome will be up and running sometime in early 2019.

"We are proceeding as though the commitment will be upheld," Larivière said.

A little help

In addition to the $4 million earmarked by the province for construction, the Belli Foundation has made an additional $3 million request to the City of Greater Sudbury for road work and infrastructure costs.

The Foundation is also asking the city for a yearly $25,000 operational grant — the same sum formerly in place to support the operations of a defunct sports dome once located on Falconbridge Road.

City staff is putting together a business case for the requests, which will be reviewed by council later this year.

But with the prospect of two sports bubbles popping up in the city, SDSC project manager Mike Graham believes the province should revoke its funding for the Belli bubble.

He explained SDSC won't be asking the city or the province for any funding, and added the business plan calls for the dome to break even through user fees.

"We just don't believe public money should be spent in that matter when there's a private-public partnership already established, has been established now for some time and is moving ahead with this," Graham said.

The Conseil Scolaire Catholique du Nouvel-Ontario has said it expects to invest $300,000 in the project.

"Changes made to the École secondaire du Sacré-Cœur parking lot and the addition of external washroom facilities will benefit both students and the community at large," the school board stated in a release.

This field, adjacent to Kathleen Street at École Sacré-Coeur near downtown Sudbury is where the Sudbury District Sports Club plans to build its year-round sports dome. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"As part of the agreement, the CSCNO will have access to 50 per cent of the space in the sports bubble from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days for the benefit of its students. CSCNO students and staff can also access the facility in the evening depending on availability."

Graham added the SDSC wouldn't be against exploring public partnerships with the city to offer more community programming once the dome is constructed.

But Larivière says the Belli Foundation is moving forward with its own plans nonetheless.

"We'll support anyone who wants to increase opportunities for youth and any citizen in our community to be healthy and live more actively," Larivière said. "Whether that's private or public, in our minds, we're not going to condemn other efforts."

"This is a great opportunity for the community to make use of tax dollars that are already earmarked. If they're going to go to a community, why not ours?"

About the Author

Benjamin Aubé is a journalist based out of Sudbury. If you have a story you'd like to share, email him at benjamin.aube@cbc.ca

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