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Past city council comments stack the odds against $200M arena

Judging from comments made during the 2022 civic campaign season, it appears unlikely city administration’s proposal to move forward with a $200M arena will proceed
Sudbury downtown aerial 3
Downtown Sudbury from the air.

Past comments by elected officials make it seem unlikely that Tuesday’s resolution for the city to proceed with a $200-million new events centre/arena in downtown Sudbury will be approved.

Past comments and the fact a less-expensive option was unanimously voted down by the previous city council in 2022.

During the 2022 civic election cycle, Mayor Paul Lefebvre told that an events centre/arena project should only proceed if it is “within our means” and “does not exceed the money already allocated by the last council, less the amounts that have been already spent. ... We need to live within or below that budget maximum.”

This amount is currently $65 million, which is $135 million short of the proposed $200-million build (city administration has recommended borrowing this $135-million shortfall).

In 2020, the City of Greater Sudbury borrowed $200 million, of which $90 million was earmarked toward the Kingsway Entertainment District (an earlier proposal for the new arena project, which city council voted down in 2022 after its projected cost more than doubled to $215 million).

Since that time, money was spent on the since-cancelled Kingsway Entertainment District (KED), as well as on downtown properties and demolition expenses to make way for either a new events centre/arena or ancillary services.

With approximately $25 million already spent, according to a report by city CAO Ed Archer tabled for the April 16 city council meeting, the total cost for the $200-million project is now $225 million.

This exceeds the KED’s final projected cost by $10 million.

All these figures exclude interest paid on borrowed funds.

Although a narrowly divided city council supported the KED, they were unanimous in shooting down the project in 2022 when it hit $215 million.

During that same meeting, a resolution to proceed with a $150-million new build on The Kingsway was also rejected, with only its mover (Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc) and Robert Kirwan (past councillor for Ward 5) supporting it.

Since that time, the project’s location has shifted downtown and an election and two city council appointments have taken place, bringing with it a new mayor and five new city council members. As such, six of the 13-member city council are new.

What did they say during their 2022 campaigns?

During the 2022 civic election, asked all local candidates for their opinions on where they stand regarding a new or renewed municipal arena. The following is what those candidates now on city council had to say.

Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti: ?

No response.

Ward 2 Coun. Eric Benoit: Only if there is return on investment

Taxpayer dollars should only be spent in a new arena if there is “significant and verifiable return on investment,” Benoit said. “I believe that the city should support any plan that does not involve tax payer money,” he added. “The only way the city should invest tax payer money is if there is a significant and verifiable return on investment, he said, adding the city should also be “streamlining the process and setting clear and achievable expectations. Then, the city should provide the resources necessary to make the process as painless as possible.”

Ward 3 Coun. Michel Brabant: ?

No response

Ward 4 Coun. Pauline Fortin: Hold a referendum

The city needs to hold a referendum on the new arena, Fortin said, adding that one should have been held during the 2022 civic election. “With all the ongoing division and our inability to move forward, it seems very simple to me,” she said. “Let’s listen to the will of the people. Most of our current council do not seem to care too much what the people may actually want and the entire council has not been able to move the city forward. Too many seem to have their own agenda and our governing and city elites are running the show from downtown.”

Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent: ?

Parent was noncommittal, but appeared to lean toward renovation. “Most of the residents that bring this up when I go door-to-door have made it abundantly clear that they are in favour of renovating the current arena and not take on any further debt,” he said.

Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre: Favours a new event centre

“Our city is the largest in Northern Ontario, even North of Barrie,” Lapierre said. “We promote ourselves as being the ‘hub’ of the north. One of our strategic goals is to enhance economic development, as well as tourism, therefore I believe Greater Sudbury should 100 per cent have an event centre to host large concert events, sporting events, and so much more. “This event centre must be one that is state of the art, to accommodate the new technologies & equipment required by performers, event organizers. Our current event centre no longer has any of these and I don’t believe that a repair, or upgrade will suffice.”

Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée: Spend ‘considerably less’

Although she didn’t have a dollar figure in mind, Labbée said she’d be interested in seeing the city spend “significantly less” than the $215 estimated for the KED. “I'm also of the opinion that just because something is shiny and new, doesn't mean ‘they will come,’” she said.  “There's only so much a dollar can be stretched and many families are having a hard time making ends meet as it is. They won't miraculously find "extra money" to spend on a night out to watch hockey or basketball or a concert. The reality is, arenas don't make money. They are expensive to operate and sustain.”

Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer: Build new

“I am in favour of building a new arena,” Sizer said. “While speaking with residents of Ward 8 those who have commented have indicated two things — build a new arena and build on The Kingsway site.“

Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh: ?

McIntosh was noncommittal in her comments. “We still have a 70-year old arena that has needed expensive emergency repairs, and was not built for the types of sporting and entertainment experiences that people want these days,” she said.

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier: ?

Cormier was non-committal, deferring comment until more information was available.

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc: Build new

The city needs to “build a new arena that’s going to be the proper size so that we can have a great entertainment centre in the heart of Sudbury somewhere, I don’t care if it’s downtown, The Kingsway, South End, wherever council decided to put it.” “We owe it to everybody, because this is going to be another attraction for Sudbury, with a new arena,” he said. “It’s going to help all our businesses throughout our area economic-wise.”

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann: ?

Non-committal response, deferring comment until more information was available.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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