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Downtown arena en route for slip to ‘poor’ condition by next year

It’s likely a moot point now that city council has approved a new events centre to replace it by 2028, but the Downtown Community Arena is in ‘fair’ condition now, and slated to slip to ‘poor’ condition by 2025 and ‘very poor’ condition by 2030
A statue of Stompin’ Tom Connors is seen outside of the Sudbury Community Arena.

Although a unanimous vote of city council opted to build a brand new $200-million events centre instead of renovating the Sudbury Community Arena, the debate continues.

At least, in some corners of the community.

A petition launched by community member Matthew Del Papa argues against the expense, as he says the existing arena is just fine.

Is it, though?

A report by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, commissioned by the city, definitively clarified that a new build is the way to go in order to hit the goals set out by city council, including its ability to attract larger events, but what about those who argue that the status quo arena is just fine? 

Will the 73-year-old Sudbury Community Arena continue to hold up? compiled several municipal reports to help answer this question.

A detailed condition assessment was released last year, which evaluated the building as being in an overall “fair” condition in 2023, but slated to drop to “poor” by 2025, and “very poor” by 2030.

That is, without additional investment.

With an additional annual average investment of $973,674 for the next 10 years, the arena could remain in its overall “fair” condition.

“To clarify, this investment would not see significant renewal or improvement of the facility,” a municipal report clarified. “This estimated amount is required just to maintain the Sudbury Community Arena in ‘fair’ condition.”

Cracked precast concrete is pictured at the Sudbury Community Arena main entrance (1951) in a report by A2S Consulting Engineers commissioned by the City of Greater Sudbury. The report cites various deficiencies in the structure, including numerous cracks and leaks. Image: A2S Consulting Engineers

The report notes that “like most public facilities in most cities over the past 70 years, regular investment in asset renewal and repair/maintenance was inconsistent and, generally, not aligned with the timing or level of expenditure to keep the facility in a state of good repair.”

At the time, current and deferred investment requirements at the Sudbury Community Arena totalled $5.85 million, which “should be implemented in the short term,” because deferring lifecycle interventions minimize the risk of “significant operational service interruptions.”

Last year, A2S Consulting Engineers completed a structural condition assessment for the Sudbury Community Arena, which they provided to the city on Oct. 16, 2023. The report was made publicly available for the April 16 city council meeting.

“We identified several items that required attention immediately,” principal engineer Steve Cairns told city council. “We did not identify any immediate deficiencies that were a risk to public health and safety.”

The report outlines numerous building deficiencies, meaning some big expenses could be on the horizon in the event the city were to continue maintaining the building into the long term. 

“The original arena structure is in ‘fair’ condition with several deficiencies noted requiring repair, compensating construction, and/or replacement to maintain the performance level of the structural elements,” according to the report’s executive summary, which recommends additional investigation to better define deficiencies or to expose anticipated deficiencies.

Although structures associated with the building’s additions were “generally found to be in good condition where reviewed,” the original roof was built to an older version of the National Building Code of Canada which did not require consideration of snow accumulation loads.

These areas are under a snow watch, wherein snow depths are continually reviewed and snow is removed, in order to spare the city the cost of compensating construction.

“Roof leakage is widespread and manifesting in staining at the underside of the wood deck at the high roof, deterioration at the northwest corner, and peeling paint on some of the perimeter masonry walls,” according to the report.

“Leaks should be identified and repaired in the short term with the understanding that wholesale replacement may be warranted.”

Water infiltration through cracks and/or joints in the foundation walls were found throughout the building’s perimeter, and “is anticipated to require extensive excavation, concrete repair and waterproofing.” Minor brick repairs are needed and the main entrance lobby’s floor structure needs to be reviewed “to address concerns regarding exposure to excessive levels of moisture and chlorides.” The precast panels at the main entrance “are in poor condition and warrant replacement.”

Photographs in A2S Consulting Engineers’ 91-page report point to various cracks in the foundation walls, leaks and points of corrosion.

“If left unchecked, this deterioration will accelerate over time as cracks slowly widen and/or embedded reinforcing steel continues to corrode, eventually resulting in a substantial reduction in the performance level of the structure,” according to the report.

Although extensive, the report points to various additional reviews which would be required to fully evaluate the building's condition, including fire safety requirements, structural steel, and the building’s timber piles, alongside other components.

In a report by Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects released publicly for the April 16 city council meeting, the “Do Nothing” approach was not recommended due to five key reasons:

  1. Major components such as the ice floor could break down, resulting in shutting down the arena and its operations for an extended period
  2. The facility will then not be upgraded to comply with today’s standards and laws including for safety, accessibility and energy.
  3. The costs to maintain and repair the arena will continue to increase – probably dramatically.
  4. It will become more difficult to attract higher quality entertainment artists and special events to the city.
  5. The facility will more and more become a second-class facility in comparison to similar Event Centres in Ontario and Canada. Its comparative service level will be second class and much worse than renewal.

Prior to these reports, a 2019 building condition assessment by Markham-based Accent Building Sciences highlighted various future building needs with the arena totalling approximately $6.5-million in renovations required within 10 years of the report’s release. This was tabled prior to the pandemic, during which construction costs spiked.

Building conditions aside, the Sudbury Community Arena does not meet Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requirements in several areas, and “existing facility constraints limit the potential for accessibility improvement upgrades,” according to a municipal report last year. Among other things, the building would need work in relation to ramps, doors, path of travel, universal washrooms, fire alarms and controls, service counters and viewing positions.

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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