Skip to content

Letter: Arena should stay downtown, whether through refurbishment or a new build

And a sports management company should take over Greater Sudbury’s recreational facilities

For decades now, we have discussed the need for a new arena or major refurbished Sudbury Community Arena.

Sudbury was and still can be a major sports tourism area for Ontario, even North America, but we have seen the neglect of our community arenas/sports facilities since amalgamation. 

Many local communities took pride in their sports facilities in the community. Now they are lucky to see a coat of paint, a waxed floor, properly washed seating areas and a site for local weddings being maintained properly.

What happened was the City of Greater Sudbury took the monies from the outlining communities’ taxes and prioritized the need repairs mainly to the core of the city. The city raised rental rates for community halls and made it mandatory to use only one company to cater to these community halls, and neglected the upkeep of these facilities, making them an undesirable for weddings, family reunions and stag and doe events.

Being Canadian, we grew up spending a lot of time in the arena in our community, as it usually had both the rink, curling facility, ball diamonds and town community hall. These all created a meeting place for both active users of facilities and general public visits to them for weddings, concerts (beer gardens), festivals and watching children-grandchildren participating in sports at these facilities.

So many people want KED (Kingsway Entertainment District), or do they?

When the city decided to look at a new arena for the city, they hired a consultant to look at a location for this, and three locations came up: South End (Dalron supported), Downtown and Kingsway (Zulich). Note at the time both Dalron and Zulich both stated they would build.

The consultant came back to the city and stated the best location was downtown. So what happened? The fight began, and our city leaders continued to disregard the view of the consultant they hired, stating the pros and cons for all three locations, with downtown being the best, according to the consultant. So, the other two locations came up with great publicity campaigns to win over council and community members support for their sites.

Today, we are no closer to an arena, but we see other communities with new arenas presently being built or recently built, and most are being built in the core of the city.

Ottawa is looking at a new arena downtown, Edmonton’s Rogers Place is downtown, Winnipeg’s Bell Arena is downtown, Saskatoon Place is downtown, London’s Bud Centre is downtown, Toronto’s Scotia Bank Centre is downtown. Oshawa’s, Kingston’s and Sault Ste. Marie’s arenas are all downtown. Why are they downtown? Convenience to public transit! 

Is parking an issue downtown? Yes, and it is in most communities’ downtown cores. Can this issue be resolved? Yes, it can be done publicly or privately, or most likely jointly.

So what I and many people would like to see is our city seriously look at a downtown arena, either a major refurbishment or a new build. 

As in Ottawa, many concerns came up concerning the arena in Kanata — parking lots, and traffic jams leaving said parking lots. The biggest question with this present economic situation created by the pandemic — will Gateway build their Casino on the KED property?

There are too many dominos that need to fall into place for KED to be successful, while downtown presently has a number of great dining experiences for the public and entertaining options. 

The city should also be looking at doing it as a private-public joint venture, and all municipal recreational facilities need to be managed by a private sports management group, as the present way we manage them is not working.

We need private and public money investment in these facilities, and if this happens, maybe we will see some much needed twinning of arenas, as they need synergies to be semi profitable. Recreational facilities can be profitable if run not as separate entities, but as a whole group and only a small profit. Hence these companies that manage sports facilities do it in a number of cities.

These sports management companies promote facilities for concerts/sporting events, tournaments, conventions and this is how they make their money, not the day-to-day operation of the facilities.

We have seen little to no money invested in our arenas, sports facilities in our community in years, outside of turf at James Jarome, infield at Terry Fox, money for upgrades at Sudbury arena by Burgess family, and upgrading the Chelmsford arena. By turning over these facilities to a private management group, we should see money being invested into them or new being built. 

I would like the city to look into some of the ideas above and seriously think about refurbishing our Sudbury Community Arena. Toronto’s arena was at one time a Canada Post warehouse sorting facility, and repurposed to become the arena.

Greg Connor, Greater Sudbury