Sudbury votes to build a new $200M arena downtown

After a three hour debate and a couple of heated exchanges, Greater Sudbury city council has unanimously voted to build a $200 million event centre in the southern portion of the downtown core. The project is set to include 5,800 seats, enhanced accessibility and environmental sustainability features. Councillors chose to build from the ground up instead of renewing the existing Sudbury Community Arena, after a report from the consulting firm Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects found it would not be cheaper to renovate the 73 year old building.Those around the table who had previously been in favour of investing in the existing infrastructure – such as Mayor Paul Lefebvre – said they changed their mind when they compared the estimated costs with that of a new build. The arena debate has plagued Sudbury city hall for a decade. (Aya Dufour/CBC)The $200 million estimate includes a “cushion” of money for incidental or unforeseen expenses, and a premium to cover the higher cost of recruiting labour in Sudbury and importing the required materials. Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects says if there’s effective project management and no extenuating circumstances, the project should stay on budget.How will it be paid for? The vote means Greater Sudbury will have to borrow $135 million on top of the $90 million of debt it already obtained at a 2.4 per cent interest rate in 2020 for the now-defunct Kingsway Entertainment District (KED). Some $25 million of that $90 million has already been spent, with the most important expense being the cost of buying properties downtown and demolishing the buildings on those properties to make way for the new event centre.For analytical purposes, the city is assuming it will be able to secure the $135 million at an interest rate of four per cent and with a 30-year repayment term.That would mean an average debt of $7,447 per Sudbury household, up from $4,466 in 2022. This would be paid for through a combination of increased property taxes and higher prices for event tickets.For the annual repayment of the debt, council has not yet decided if it will redirect a portion of its four-year special capital levy or if it will increase taxes by 0.4 per cent starting next year. If it chooses to increase taxes by 0.4 per cent, this means a taxpayer with a property valued at $350,000 will pay approximately $27 more per year until 2028. However the tender and bidding process still needs to happen before the city borrows the money it needs for the project.”We’re not hitting the market tomorrow for $135 million,” noted the city’s chief administrative officer Ed Archer.He adds that staff will monitor market conditions for the best deal.For many around the table, doing nothing was not an option Ward 11 councillor Bill Leduc tried to delay the vote by introducing a last minute motion requesting that public consultations be held before council votes on the project, but that was defeated. “We’ve heard from residents over time and time again that taxes have gone up and they can’t afford this,” said Leduc. “They want more clarification. They would like to be a part of the process.” “This is putting my grandchildren in debt for the next 30 years,” he said. To this, many around the table replied that there have been enough delays. Councillor Deb McIntosh said the public had been consulted many times over the past eight years. She added the community is ready for the city to make a decision.Councillor Deb McIntosh said it’s time for the city to make a decision on the arena file. (Aya Dufour/CBC)Ward One’s Mark Signoretti said holding public meetings would rekindle the division and bitterness created by the debate over where the arena should be located. “To go to a town hall and rehash all this is just going to create that division and that animosity,” he said.Councillor René Lapierre said a few of his constituents raised concerns about the $200 million downtown arena proposal, but says there are more people saying “please just make the decision, make it happen.””We’ve seen in the past when a project is delayed the costs explode. By delaying this project, we’re risking that,” added Ward 2 councillor Eric Benoit.McIntosh said $200 million is a lot of money but it is manageable for a city the size of Greater Sudbury. “The event centre price tag is never going to get cheaper,” she said. “Doing nothing is not an option that would be in the best interest in the future of our community.” Without repairs, current facility could slip into ‘poor conditions’ as soon as next yearA report on the current condition of the Sudbury Community Arena suggests that the facility could move into poor condition in 2025. Maintenance and approximately $20 million in repairs are needed to keep the facility in good shape, including fixing the roof and moisture issues. The main tenants of the Sudbury Community Arena are the Sudbury Wolves and the Sudbury Five. The city will have to negotiate new agreements with these sports teams once it builds a new facility.

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