Now that I have seen plans for renovating the current downtown arena into a proper event centre, I want to implore council to take this proposal seriously and shift its focus from the Kingsway Entertainment District to Project NOW!
I think it’s time to be honest about the Kingsway proposal:
Three years after council approved it, the city has not taken a single step closer to building it; instead, millions of taxpayers' dollars have been spent needlessly defending it in courts. Had council chosen downtown, the very next home game the Wolves play would be in a brand new building, obviously a huge opportunity lost.
Three years after council approved the KED, not one development proposal has come forward for that site. There are still only three partners – the city, the casino and the hotel – Gateway Casinos appear to be in financial difficulty and we still don’t know the name of the hotel chain. If this proposal is going to be a world-class, dynamic, job-creating entertainment centre and commercial hub, as certain councillors continue to insist it will be, then where are the other partners? Where are the expressions of interest for the restaurants, retailers and theatres we were promised? Where are the plans for the motorsports and water parks the developer talked about?
We still don’t know how much the KED will cost. In fact, it seems like the city is arguing with itself about the final costs – it’s either $100 million or $120 million depending on which document you read. Whatever the estimate, does it include all the infrastructure such as the ring road, the new intersections and improvements to the Kingsway? Does it include the on-site water storage? Does it include festival squares? Who knows? None of the regular updates to council have answered any of these questions.
It’s time to accept that the idea of creating a world-class, dynamic entertainment and commercial hub on The Kingsway is a fantasy that Sudbury taxpayers cannot afford. It is not realistic and it is time to move on.
I believe the event centre belongs downtown for its own sake rather than downtown’s sake. To be successful, the arena will need the amenities that are already downtown, such as bars, restaurants and the more than 3,000 parking spaces within walking distance. It is clearer than ever that those things are not possible on The Kingsway.
For these reasons, I applaud the people behind Project NOW! for coming forward with this plan. This proposal is a big investment and a very important development for Sudbury as we plan our post-COVID recovery.
In my opinion, the KED is not a serious project and it’s time city council started to take this decision seriously.