Skip to content

Full Story: $200M arena/events centre greenlit by city council

All 13 members of Greater Sudbury city council voted to greenlight a new-build $200M arena/events centre in Downtown Sudbury, and OK’d new debt of $135 million to do it
The more than 70-year-old Sudbury Community Arena is seen in the city’s downtown core.

A unanimous city council greenlit a $200-million arena/events centre in downtown Sudbury during tonight’s meeting.

The city’s elected officials later voted to approve new debt of up to $135 million to help pay for it, which, when secured, will bring the city’s total debt load to $604 million.

The new arena will be built Downtown Sudbury, though a number of city council members clarified that it will benefit the entirety of Greater Sudbury.

There will be a “ripple effect ... to our entire city,” Ward 10 Coun Fern Cormier said.

“We’re going to make a difference in our downtown, we’re going to make a difference in our city and it starts with our decision tonight,” Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre said. “We have to start acting like a big city, and that’s what we’re doing by making these big investments.”

“We’re the economic hub of Northern Ontario and we’ve got to start acting like it,” Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée said. “I don’t want to be Good Enough Sudbury, I’d like to see Greater Sudbury.”

Although past city council comments during the 2022 election campaign stacked the odds against a $200-million arena, the fact city council has already spent approximately $20.42 million on the project pointed to a very different potential outcome at tonight’s meeting.

This $20.42 million has been spent purchasing and demolishing downtown properties to make way for the arena and accompanying ancillary services, such as a potential convention centre.

This expense and $4.38-million spent on the Kingsway Entertainment District (a cancelled past proposal for an arena/events centre project) are not included in the $200-million estimate. These expenses were drawn from the $90-million pool of borrowed funds already earmarked for the project, which is why $135 million is being borrowed instead of $110 million.

Much of tonight’s meeting centred around the question of whether the city should proceed with a new arena/events centre or a refurbishment/renovation of the existing Sudbury Community Arena, which is more than 70 years old.

A report by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects definitively clarified that a new build is the way to go. It will cost roughly the same as renovating the existing arena and achieve all of the city’s goals, whereas a renovation would only achieve some.

During tonight’s meeting, company founder Murray Beynon presented his firm’s findings.

Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects founder Murray Beynon speaks during the April 16 city council meeting. Tyler Clarke /

Beynon oversees a team of more than 50 architects, and the firm has tackled various significant projects in its 40 years, including the three-year, $1-billion renovation of Madison Square Garden in New York City several years ago 

“I think I can say with definite certainty we’ve done more event centres than any other firm in Canada,” he said. “We have done more major renewals of event centres than any other firm, we believe, in North America.”

Near the start of his presentation, Beynon summarized, “The new build is significantly superior to a renewal or renovation.”

Renovating the Sudbury Community Arena would bring about numerous challenges, he said, adding that renovation projects of this nature frequently go over-budget. 

“I can give you great horror stories for the next hour and a half ... and I’m not joking about that,” he said. “You cannot believe what’s happened in certain cases.”

There are many aspects to renovating the downtown arena he described as “impractical.” To meet all of the city’s expectations they’d have to elevate the arena’s roof to add a floor, tear out the seating bowl to make room for comfortable seating and replace the existing wood foundation to eliminate the risk it will fail, among other things.

Doing these extra things would cost an additional $100 million beyond the cost of a new build.

To come up with their cost estimate, Beynon said they drew experiences from numerous comparators and overlaid it with local construction industry insights and past municipal arena reports.

In the end, the city’s elected officials were unanimous in supporting Beynon’s findings, which were supplemented in an accompanying report by city CAO Ed Archer, which also recommended a new build.

Although Cormier said not everyone in the community will be happy with city council’s decision, “history will prove” it was the right thing to do, as is what happened with such past projects as the Big Nickel and the downtown McEwen School of Architecture.

When it came time for city council to vote on borrowing an additional $135 million to help pay for the project, Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent introduced a successful amendment to have the city investigate alternative means of tackling its annual debt servicing payments that don’t rely on taxation. Potential sources could be the municipal accommodation tax or a portion of the special capital levy earmarked for roads.

When Parent asked Archer whether he was confident the city could offset a property tax increase through other sources of revenue, the CAO’s single-word answer was, “Yes.”

City staff will monitor interest rates to secure debt at the best possible time, city Financial Planning and Budgeting manager Liisa Lenz said, noting they won’t need the money immediately so there’s some time to evaluate conditions.

Not all resolutions tabled by city council members tonight received their colleagues’ support.

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc is seen during the April 16 city council meeting tabling an unsuccessful motion to defer a decision on the $200-million downtown arena/events centre until such time as a series of public town hall-style meetings have taken place. Tyler Clarke /

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc tabled an unsuccessful motion which would have seen a decision deferred until staff have completed public consultation via town hall meetings throughout the municipality, similar to last year’s series of meetings at area emergency services stations.

“Taxes have gone up, they can’t afford this, they just want more clarification,” Leduc said. “If it takes an extra two months it’s not going to stop anything, but at least we’re going to respect the public. ... I think we owe that to every resident throughout the city.”

The arena question has been bandied about since 2016 and passed through municipal elections, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh countered.

“We’ve had plenty of opportunity for people to tell us exactly what they think,” she said. “The community is ready for us to make a decision tonight.”

Leduc was the only member of city council to support a deferral.

After the meeting, Leduc told that he plans on bringing forward a motion to request a referendum on the arena, at the April 30 city council meeting.

Also during tonight’s meeting, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann tabled a motion to defer resolutions related to financing options for the arena, arguing that city council should receive an upcoming report on homelessness slated to be tabled in May. She cautioned that its recommendations are likely to carry significant costs. 

After a few city council members spoke against the deferral and rejected a connection between an arena and addressing homelessness, Landry-Altmann admitted that she didn’t expect her deferral request to pass. Only Leduc joined her in supporting the deferral.  

“I wanted to have your commitment,” she said, adding the city needs to do more about homelessness soon, particularly with the province remaining “silent.”

The arena/events centre project is expected to be a conventional design-bid-build project, which under its current projected timeline will open by April 2028.

An exact site has not been selected for the project, but it’s expected to be constructed somewhere on the block to the immediate east of the Sudbury Community Arena, which the city recently purchased to accommodate the arena and ancillary services.

“Once a site has been selected, staff will prepare a Request for Expressions of Interest to begin to engage with the private sector toward realizing south district (downtown) redevelopment,” according to Archer’s report.

It’s anticipated that city staff will report to city council on a regular basis, in addition to whenever the project hits a major milestone.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
Read more