Sudbury

Millions in repairs needed at Sudbury Community Arena, says city manager

The Sudbury Community Arena will require millions in repairs and upgrades over the next 10 years to continue operating, says a city manager.

70-year-old arena needs major upgrades over next 10 years to keep hosting events

The Sudbury Community Arena needs upgrades to its main roof, doors, windows and HVAC system, according to Jody Cameron, the city's manager of arenas. (Sam Juric/CBC)

The Sudbury Community Arena will require millions in repairs and upgrades over the next 10 years to continue operating, says a manager with the city.

On Tuesday, Sudbury city council voted unanimously not to move ahead with a new arena at the Kingsway Entertainment District (KED) that would have replaced the 70-year-old building in the downtown core.

Councillors and Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said the new $215-million budget for the KED arena and event centre was too much, and would have meant borrowing $115 million at higher interest rates and increasing municipal taxes by two per cent for 30 years.

Jody Cameron, the city's manager of arenas, said the condition of the current downtown arena was last assessed in 2019. The assessment found the building was in fair condition, on a scale from poor to good condition.

"There are over the next 10 years, some larger capital work that will need to be required at some point," Cameron said. 

"Work such as, probably the main roof, the doors, the windows, maybe some HVAC work. That type of thing."

Cameron said that work would cost millions of dollars, but hesitated to give an exact number.

He noted construction costs have gone up significantly in the last couple of years due to supply shortages from the pandemic and inflation.

The proposed arena at the KED, for example, was budgeted at $100 million in 2017, an estimate that more than doubled in five years. 

Because council has chosen to step away from the KED arena, the Sudbury Community Arena will continue to be the home of the Sudbury Wolves OHL hockey team and the Sudbury Five professional basketball team. The arena also hosts events such as concerts and comedy shows.

Cameron said that while the long-term goal was to replace the arena, the city has continued to maintain it, and has done work on plumbing and electrical systems in recent years.

"We have replaced the chiller for the ice plant and we've also replaced the glass to acrylic, and we installed soft caps and some rounded glass near the benches, which brings the ice pad to NHL standards," Cameron said. 

"So we could host an NHL game here now because of those."

Now that council has rejected the KED arena budget, plans for a future or upgraded arena in Sudbury are unclear. It will be up to the next council, which will be elected in October, to make those decisions.

A middle aged man with glasses, wearing a suit jacket.
Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger says he hopes to be part of the next council, which will need to make a decision about the future of the Sudbury Community Arena. (Jonathan Migneault/CBC)

Uncertain future

"The KED was never about just building an arena. It was about making this city greater and we are never going to stop," said Dario Zulich, the developer of the KED and owner of the Wolves and the Five, in a brief email statement on Wednesday.

"Now we pivot."

Zulich did not respond to requests for an interview and did not say what pivoting would entail. 

Bigger said he hopes to be part of the next council, which will decide what happens with the Sudbury Community Arena.

"Well, we still have the Sudbury Community Arena," Bigger said.

"And clearly there have been decisions not to invest additional money into the Sudbury Community Arena until the question of the KED was decided, whether it was a move forward decision and or the decision was made last night."

Mayoral hopeful Paul Lefebvre said either a new, more affordable or a refurbished arena needs to be a priority for the next council.

"When you go in the arena, it is aging.  And I think we deserve one, but that being said, within our means," he said.

"And I believe that's what happened in the last five years. They dreamed of an arena that we could not afford. Now we need to dream of an arena that meets our needs and that we can certainly all take joy in."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Migneault

Digital reporter/editor

Jonathan Migneault is a CBC digital reporter/editor based in Sudbury. He is always looking for good stories about northeastern Ontario. Send story ideas to jonathan.migneault@cbc.ca.

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