City of Greater Sudbury rejects arena budget and backs out of Kingsway Entertainment District
Arena would have increased municipal taxes for 30 years
Sudbury city council unanimously voted to reject a proposed $215-million budget for an arena and event centre located at the Kingsway Entertainment District, effectively ending the city's involvement with the project.
Tuesday evening's vote came after a report from city staff in which the budget for the project more than doubled from its original $100-million estimate in 2017.
"You know what, I think (they were) positive votes for our future," said Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger.
"We had a significant change in information that we were provided by staff just within the last few weeks. And I think there was clearly a consensus on council that we're not willing to take on new additional debt. The price tag of roughly $215 million, that was provided as an estimate, was just too much."
Bigger said the city would have had to borrow an additional $115 million to cover the project, at an interest rate of more than five per cent, compared to the 2.6-per cent interest rate the city had secured for capital projects in the recent past.
He said approving the project would have required a two per cent increase to municipal taxes for the next 30 years.
Bigger and some councillors, like Ward 10's Fern Cormier, said Tuesday's vote was at a critical "off-ramp" to exit the project before advancing to the next phase, which would have meant spending around $3 million to finalize the design and final budget for the arena.
Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan proposed an amendment that would have had the city advance to that design phase with a caveat the city would not spend more than $150 million on the arena and event centre.
They lost the vote on that amendment two votes to 10.
"When you get the sticker shock on anything, you might think, 'I want to build a new deck, or I want to make a renovation,'" said Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier.
"Sometimes you're forced to say, 'Whoa, we need to reprioritize and think about what we're doing here.'"
Leduc, who supported an arena at the Kingsway Entertainment District, but voted against the ballooning budget in the end, said Tuesday was a "very disappointing day."
Celebration for some
But others were happier with the outcome.
Before the meeting, a small group of protestors opposed to the development stood outside Tom Davies Square – Sudbury's city hall – with signs criticizing the arena's high cost.
Jeff MacIntyre, past chair of the Sudbury Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), said he was happy with the outcome from council.
"Downtown has been opposed to this for quite some time," he said.
"The news that's come out recently isn't really a surprise to us. It's basically what we've been saying from the beginning on the cost of developing out there."
MacIntyre added he has no issue if Gateway Casinos and Genesis Hospitality Management want to still go ahead and build a casino and hotel, respectively, at the Kingsway Entertainment District.
He said his issue was with the use of public dollars to develop the site.
Mayor Bigger confirmed the Kingsway Entertainment District developer, Dario Zulich, and both companies, could still proceed with their end of the project, if they choose to do so.