Supporters of building a new arena and events centre in downtown Sudbury suffered a bit of a setback Tuesday night when city council decided on the most important criteria for building the $80 million to $100 million structure.
Councillors rejected by a vote of 8-5 an option that would have made cost and economic impact the most important factors, and instead approved an option that also made parking a top priority.
The second most important factors will be complimentary benefits, access and ease of development. Still listed as important, but less vital, are vision and city building.
Finding enough parking downtown for the events centre, especially if it's twinned with a new casino that's expected to be built in the next few years, is a challenge downtown. A downtown events centre would likely go in the Minto Street area, meaning municipal parking in the area would likely be lost. And the Place des arts facility is slated to take up another parking lot.
Consultant Ron Bidulka, who is preparing the RFP for the events centre for sometime in June, told councillors he is “agnostic” when it comes to location.
From previous discussions, Bidulka said it's clear that cost and economic impact are priorities. While several other factors are clearly important, he said he needed council's direction to determine how to weigh other factors.
What he needed from council, he said, was an objective criteria to fairly evaluate the bids.
“That's the ultimate purpose of this,” Bidulka said. “Which are of the same importance? Which are more important? Which are of highest importance?
“Access and parking is generally very important,” he added.
After the meeting, Mayor Brian Bigger said there's lots of discussion still to come before a site is selected. But he hedged when asked if Tuesday's vote was a bad sign for supporters of a downtown rink.
"That's very difficult to predict, until we see the evaluation coming back from the consultants,” Bigger said. “I think that all of the key sites, I'm sure, are still in the running. We'll look forward to the consultants report."
While factors that would be in favour of downtown – such as vision and city building – were given less weight, he said they are still considered important.
"I think although the weighting of city building was less than some of the highest importance factors that were in scenario 3, still it's important, it's on the list and is being considered,” Bigger said. “So that's important."