The years-long effort to build an indoor sports facility in Greater Sudbury is moving forward, as city councillors approved funding this week to evaluate proposals.
Meeting on Monday, members of the community services heard that there are three groups expressing interest in building a sports dome or other indoor facility.
One group is willing to pay the full $8 million to $10 million cost and build this summer, in exchange for leasing city land at Countryside and breaks on taxes and development charges.
Some councillors wanted to know why they were being asked to spend $20,000 to develop a process, rather than just dealing with the developers directly.
“Do we need a consultant to tell us we need an (indoor) soccer field?” asked Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan. “Why are we doing all this stuff before we get the proposals?”
And Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh said with one group willing to put up the money and operate the facility, she didn't want to miss the opportunity.
“This one seems to me to be, duh,” she said. “We have a group that's willing to build and operate it, they just want to lease our land … I don't see how this is different than the Place des arts. We didn't do an RFP for an arts centre. They came forward with the idea.”
“I know the group wants to do it this year. We could have a domed soccer (facility) this fall, ready to go for the winter. We don't have to fund them.”
With the city already facing big funding requests and demands for other projects, McIntosh said council should be willing to work with the private sector when it benefits taxpayers.
“They want to put it where we said it should go and they want to pay for it, so I don't understand why this is a problem,” she said.“Other groups have said they're interested. But this group says they're going to pay for it.
“If we dilly and dally, we're not going to get a soccer dome. Or we'll end up paying for it ourselves.”
But Catherine Matheson, the city's GM of community development, said no group is proposing building a dome without help from the city. That makes things more complicated.
“If a partner was coming forward with something that had no ask from the city, we could bring that straight to council for consideration,” Matheson said. “The proposals we've been seeing, however, we don't have anything in writing that says completely zero cost to the city.”
With other groups also expressing interest, and looking for city support, she said staff need an “open and transparent” process to handle the proposals.
“There are competing interests in this, it's not just one party expressing interest,” Matheson said. “So know we're at the point where we need a process for this, how do we handle this?”
Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said there is clearly a lot of demand for an indoor sports dome, and if hiring a consultant will help make it happen, he's in favour.
“There's a huge demand for this type of a facility,” Jakubo said. “If this $20,000 is going to define a process for us moving forward, I can vote for that.”
A soccer dome at St. Charles College was supposed to open in 2012, but the developer balked at building code requirements for building in the North. The dome was a passion for late city Coun. Fabio Belli, who passed away in April 2014.
The issue came up again late last year at the Rainbow District School Board, when it emerged trustees had discussed the idea of putting on at Lasalle Secondary School, but the plan didn't get off the ground.
A report on the consultant's findings will be presented to the committee in June.