Sudbury councillors push for re-evaluation of downtown arena

Once again, the future of the Kingsway Entertainment District is on the table.

McCausland, Signoretti say city should look at 3rdLineStudio's proposal

A Sudbury firm has pitched their idea to Sudbury city hall, saying it could save $60 million on refurbishing the downtown arena. (Gino Donato/CBC)

Once again, the future of the Sudbury's downtown arena, and potentially the Kingsway Entertainment District, is on the table.

A recent proposal by architectural firm 3rdLineStudio– dubbed Project Now– claims the downtown Sudbury arena could be refurbished into a multi-function event centre, saving the city $40 million. 

Councillors Mark Signoretti and Geoff McCausland, both vocal opponents of the $100 million KED project on the city's outskirts, are expected to table a motion at the September council meeting, calling for staff to evaluate the suitability, costs and timeline of the 3rdLine proposal.

"For me this is about due diligence and fiscal responsibility," McCausland said. "We have a community group that's put out a plan...and on paper it looks really good. We need to take that paper and put into our own numbers."

"This should help dispel a potential myth...that there's $40 million savings out there and council didn't give it the time of day." 

Signoretti said he wanted to be clear that this motion was not about stopping the controversial KED project, but rather looking at all options in light of a projected $13 million municipal deficit.

"If someone can put something together that's going to save the community and the taxpayers significant dollars...why would we just ignore it and not go through a due diligence to at least explore if the numbers if the information that's been provided is correct?" Signoretti said.

"When you see something out there that can save millions of dollars, are you just going to turn a blind eye to it?"

Both McCausland and Signoretti said they were initially sceptical of the 3rdLine proposal, and were hoping the group, led by prominent architect Tim James, would make an official proposal to city council.

So far, their message and plan has been driven through a slick social media campaign, including 3D drawings and a video walkthrough of a new arena.

"We're always skeptical when people bring ideas forward," Signoretti said. "But again, we would be doing a disservice to ignore it and to say, 'oh, well, we're skeptical, so it's not going to happen.'"

McCausland said the 3rdLine ideas, which include an integrated parking garage downtown are interesting, but still need a "proper look." 

"We need to make sure we're not comparing apples to oranges, but apples to apples," McCausland said. "My concern is that we have other considerations in the city that we have to factor in when we're making these decisions, things like infrastructure upgrades, possibly other of of contingencies."

"And perhaps their plan hasn't factored those things in."

Development of the KED– a casino, public square, hotel and event centre–  has been mired in an LPAT appeal spearheaded by local business owner Tom Fortin.

The next hearing in the appeal is scheduled for September 17 and 18.

According to the city, the capital budget to construct the full arena/events centre project is $100 million. Early in the project development, city staff anticipated the arena would be ready by 2021.

If the motion passes, staff will be responsible for delivering a report to council in October. 

You can read the entire member's motion by clicking here.



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