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Proposed Sudbury arena would be “showpiece of Northern Ontario”

The entrepreneur leading the new arena proposal hopes it will draw tourists, corporate events
True North Strong Conceptual Drawing
A conceptual drawing of the True North Strong Centre, provided by the developer.

The proposed True North Strong Event Centre has Sudbury hockey enthusiasts excited, but the space could be for work, not just play.

The developers say it could be used for corporate events, and they want to build something big enough to house them.

“Sudbury is the capital of Northern Ontario. We want to design a conference, convention, events centre that is like-minded, on the same scale as the city,” said Dario Zulich, the local developer who is leading the True North Strong bid.

“We're not going to design a baby arena or a baby convention centre.”

Zulich is a local developer who purchased the Sudbury Wolves, the city’s Ontario Hockey League franchise, and he's working on the True North Strong arena plan with his business partners, Perry Dellelce and Andrew Dale.

A new arena is one of four large projects being conditionally supported by city councillors.

Others include a new art gallery and main library, an arena and events centre, the Synergy Centre, and Place des Arts.

The True North Strong team first presented their plan for a new arena to city council in November, and expect to hear whether their project can proceed by May. Zulich is confident about it going forward.

“I never thought of it [not getting approved] because where else can it go,” said Zulich.

Their pitch places the site in Sudbury's northeast end, two kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway.

Some proponents prefer keeping the city’s main arena in the downtown area. However, Zulich remains convinced their location is preferable and said it would be appealing to corporate audiences.

He points to the “ample parking” they'll include, and their proximity to the Sudbury airport.

“Being close to the airport is paramount.”

Zulich hopes the centre would help create a new district in that end of town, comparing it to the neighbourhoods that mining companies like Falconbridge and Inco created for their employees.

Inside, the centre will boast two skating pads and a capacity of nearly 8,000.

The facility’s space would be flexible to convert into convention halls suited to trade shows, conferences and allow for private spaces for breakout sessions.

“It would be a state-of-the-art event centre with state of-the-art electronics, sight lines, audio, acoustics, state of-the-art communication and telecommunication,” said Zulich. “There's nothing else in northeastern Ontario like this.”

Part of that technology includes plans to become a net zero carbon facility. Zulich said they will work with Greater Sudbury Utilities to figure out how to operate it as a green facility.

“I'm not just looking at the next two years or five, but the next 20,” said Zulich. “I'm not building a building; I'm building an industry, a tourism industry, a sports tourism industry.”

The facility proposal appears to be in step with the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation's plans to bring more sports tourism to the region.

The city currently has a bid in for the Canada Summer Games in 2021 which they say has the potential to bring $16.5 million to the city.

However, they would need more venues and spaces to accommodate the 19 sports events.

Zulich’s hope is that the centre will draw even more events like that, and encourage more tourism and travel to the city.