As the City of Greater Sudbury inches toward the Kingsway Entertainment District’s eventual construction, an opposition group is striving to derail it and have the city start from scratch.
As of today, a change.org petition opposing the new arena and event centre at the east side of Greater Sudbury on Kingsway Boulevard had nearly reached its goal of 2,500 signatures.
Petition leader Patrick Crowe said the 2,500 figure was arbitrary and that their actual goal is to gather as many signatures as possible in hopes of convincing city council to cancel the project.
“The petition is designed for people to express their opposition to the KED for whatever reason,” he said. “We called for a referendum as a backup, but what we’re actually asking them to do is stop the KED and begin the public consultation process again … from scratch.”
The KED has a long and convoluted history.
The city’s elected officials voted in favour of the project in 2017 and affirmed its Kingsway location over options downtown. This decision was reaffirmed last month, when they gave staff the OK to move forward with the next steps.
Along the way, it has faced numerous unsuccessful court challenges. Last week, the Minnow Lake Restoration group issued its court challenge, the results of which have yet to be determined.
Despite the majority of council opting to move things forward, Crowe said he finds it difficult to view the pro-KED crowd as legitimate, describing them as “duped” and calling the project itself a “foolish folly” comparable to the doomed monorail featured in an episode of The Simpsons.
The city needs to start looking at their options for a new arena from square one, make their case and hold a referendum.
“If it really is a good idea, then the public will respond, but I don’t think they will,” he said.
Fellow anti-KED proponent and petition partner Hazel Ecclestone said her chief concern with the KED is its environmental implications, particularly after city council publicly backed environmental goals in the past.
Last year, city council approved the Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP), directing staff to move on steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy use, lower costs, mitigate risk and improve quality of life.
Then, in February, the city released the first phase of its five-year climate action plan in support of the CEEP, which strives to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
According to a city report presented on Feb. 9, the CEEP notes that “compact, well-designed neighbourhoods where workplaces, shops, and schools are easily accessible by walking, biking and transit help reduce the number of trips by private vehicles and the required infrastructure footprint to provide the necessary services.”
City council selecting a location for the KED that people have to drive out to doesn’t jive with their environmental goals, Ecclestone said.
“The city is just not taking care of this stuff as much as they join in on these fun contracts with the international community saying they will,” she said. “It seems to just be fashion for them because they’re not making good their promises — not at all.”
Rather than build a new arena on Kingsway Boulevard, she shares the view expressed in the online petition that the existing Sudbury Community Arena, centrally located downtown where it contributes toward a more walkable city core, should be renovated.
The online petition, which Ecclestone describes as “very much symbolic,” will be presented to them at some point.
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, perhaps the most vocal proponent of the KED, said the petition doesn’t tell him anything.
It’s unclear how many of its signatories are actually local, he said, noting council members have already voted on the KED a number of times.
As for the possibility of a referendum, he said that while he’s just one vote in council chambers, he can’t see it happening.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.