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To KED or not to KED: Misinformation abounds on both sides of the debate, we attempt to clear the air

Much has been said about the Kingsway Entertainment District, with social media spreading several points of misinformation relatively unchecked. Reporter Tyler Clarke dug into published statements and material, as well as official documents about the project, and conducted new interviews in an attempt to clarify the situation  
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A sign at the Kingsway Entertainment District property is seen vandalized with a reminder of its proximity to the Sudbury Landfill Site.

Misinformation has long clouded public debate on the Kingsway Entertainment District – a large-scale municipal arena project expected to also include a private hotel and casino.

The spreading of falsehoods has been “continuous” throughout the multi-year process that brings us to today, Mayor Brian Bigger said. 

“That’s the challenge with a project like this, when people are intentionally putting misinformation out into the public realm,” he added.

“I do believe that is the case, obviously trying to dissuade public opinion, however, the decision was based on professional advice and many factors a number of years ago by council.”

Factually dubious statements have been made by people from both sides of the debate, including statements made by some of the city’s elected officials. 

Despite Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan persisting in his claim that there is a legally binding build commitment among the project’s partners to see their projects through to completion, city administrators, including two lawyers, disagree with his interpretation of the existing cost-sharing agreement, which is limited to site preparation costs.

Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc has said the hotel is going to be the “largest hotel in Sudbury,” despite the hotel partner, Genesis Hospitality, clarifying that they’ve yet to settle on many of its key details, including the number of rooms and hotel brand. 

As for the Anti-KED side of the equation, social media has been opponents’ primary battleground, where people have most recently claimed that Genesis Hospitality’s role in the hotel would be limited to that of manager. 

Although this is a service the Manitoba-based company offers alongside owning and operating 12 hotels, company executive president Kevin Swark clarified recently that their plan is to “build a hotel, own and operate it” at the KED site.

Even after an article outlining this clarification was published at, opponent Hazel Ecclestone wrote in emailed correspondence that the company is a “hotel management company” and that they “do not build hotels.”

Ecclestone is one of the city’s most outspoken anti-KED advocates, and is one of the people behind the anti-KED petition that was presented to city council earlier this month.

The following is a breakdown of some of the other key points of opposition the anti-KED lobby has been making in recent months, alongside clarity on the varying degrees to which they’re accurate.

Developer Dario Zulich’s office indicated that he was too busy to comment and that the points of contention were largely clarified on the city’s website. The city’s communications department responded to a phone interview request with a written statement.

The cost of the Kingsway Entertainment District

An inaccurate $200-million municipal contribution toward the Kingsway Entertainment District has been bandied about a great deal by opponents to the project, including some of those behind an anti-KED petition that was presented to city council earlier this month. 

One of these petitioners is Ecclestone, who cited the $200-million figure, which is vastly greater than the official numbers shared thus far.

Excluding site development costs, the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the KED issued earlier this year estimated the arena cost as being between $87 million and $92.8 million. 

Although Ecclestone contended that “it could easily become $200 million,” she did not offer any accounting for the cost estimate she chose to use.

Fellow anti-KED petitioner Patrick Crowe asserted in emailed correspondence with that “$200 million was borrowed by the city to finance the project even before council had voted to move forward.”

Council voted to move forward on a few occasions, including their 2017 site selection and 2018 rezoning of the property. 

The $200 million in debt was approved in 2019, of which $90 million was earmarked for the KED. The balance is going toward the following projects: 

  • The Junction: $68 million 
  • Municipal Road: 35 $30.8 million 
  • Bridge and Culverts: $6.9 million 
  • Place des Arts: $5 million 
  • Playground Revitalization: $2.3 million 
  • McNaughton Terrace Treatment Facility: $2.2 million

Some of the KED’s costs have been hidden, alleges whoever is behind an anonymous website called Sudbury Questions, which claimed the city hid $14 million in capital expenditures related to the KED in the Greater Sudbury Hydro Inc. budget.

In an article by The Sudbury Star, utility spokesperson Wendy Watson categorically denied the anonymous author’s allegations, which were shared widely on social media. 

Although there have been cost estimates, the total cost of the project has yet to be determined, as a final design and tender for an arena has yet to be issued.

The only site work to be tendered thus far is for site preparation, which Oakville-headquartered Bot Engineering & Construction Ltd. received in 2018 at $8.5 million. With the project delayed, the revised contract has been estimated at approximately $9.4 million, plus engineering consultant J.L. Richards & Associates Ltd. at a cost of approximately $330,000. 

This is in addition to legal challenges related to the KED, which have cost the city approximately $850,000 as of September.

Verdict: A heaping dollop of misinformation.

The community does not support the KED

There’s no cut and dried answer to whether the community supports the KED, but the issue can be afforded some context to conclude that ultimately it’s up for interpretation. 

The “Sudbury Concerned Citizens Group” is behind a 3,343-name online petition titled “We want Sudbury’s new arena located downtown to fuel our city’s urban renaissance,” which was tabled during the Dec. 14 meeting of city council.

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan has argued against the relevance of this petition as there are no checks or balances to ensure voters are both local and real. 

Kirwan posted his own poll on the Valley East Facebook page he moderates with his wife, Valerie, in January, on which 854 people voted in favour of the KED proceeding and 152 voted that they want the KED cancelled.

This poll, however, was not entirely public, as Valerie noted in correspondence with city integrity commissioner Robert Swayze a few months ago that they had blocked 2,000 people. 

The integrity of their voting list is also called to question by the fact that Jessie Timmons voted in favour of the KED. Jessie Timmons is a fake Facebook account created for use in moderating the Valley East page, which Kirwan has insisted only his wife has used but which city council voted to reprimand him for in September for breaching the city’s code of conduct.

Minnow Lake Restoration Group president John Lindsay points to past surveys of seniors, including one of seniors at a Canadian Association of Retired Persons from a few years ago in which they expressed opposition to various “legacy” projects. 

Additional poll information provided showed limited support for the KED but lacked key details such as sample size and who conducted the survey.

In 2020, The Sudbury Star reported on a poll commissioned by 3rdLine.Studio, which had proposed a downtown arena renovation project. Conducted by polling firm Oraclepoll, 500 area residents were polled. 

Two leading questions were asked:

  • “Should the multi-purpose facility be built where there are existing infrastructure services, including road, water and sewer access, as well as public transit services?”
  • “Would you be more likely to support the lower cost downtown option if the savings were used for upgrades and new services in local neighbourhoods and outlying areas of the community?”

According to Oraclepoll, 61 per cent of respondents indicated they would support a renovated arena. 

In the 2018 municipal election, Greater Sudbury city council remained nearly unchanged, with new people elected to only two of the 13 seats. This followed their 2017 vote in favour of the KED. Although Greater Sudbury city council remains divided on the project, the majority has consistently voted in favour of it. 

In a letter to the editor, anti-KED proponent Ian Berdusco noted that only 28 per cent of the votes cast in the 2018 election were for candidates who supported the KED under its current scope.

Verdict: Who knows?

The downtown arena would have been less expensive

The Project Now proposal by 3rdLine.Studio proposed a downtown arena renovation project that they advertised as being $40 million less than the planned KED. 

“The proposal Project Now was never even considered even though it claimed to meet a $60m saving,” Crowe said in emailed correspondence to 

During a presentation to city council in October 2020, Tim James with 3rdLine.Studio noted that Project Now’s approximately $60-million price tag did not include a parking structure, which he estimated as carrying a price tag of around $35 million. 

"If our strategy and desire is to save $40 million, then I think we have to recognize that existing parking in the downtown core off peak hours is sufficient to support the event centre,” he said at the time.

Their proposal was almost like a “bait and switch,” Bigger said, adding that this isn’t an apples to apples comparison.

“Even the arena is not the same quality as the arena being built on The Kingsway,” he said. 

“Prior to the vote in 2017, there was very strong lobbying by downtown supporters that if we were to do anything in the downtown we would also need to construct structured parking, which has ranged in price estimates coming from the public from $20 million to $40 million.”

The flipside to this argument is an opportunity for private industry to take care of parking, which was also bandied about at the time.

The lobbying for parking has continued, and the group behind the proposed $40-million redevelopment of the property where the Ledo Hotel now sits indicated in 2020 that parking was a major factor and that more was needed if the project is to move forward.

As it stood in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, a report by outside consultant IBI Group cited limited downtown parking in recommending the construction of an $8- to $12-million parking structure to accommodate needs of the day.

In the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the municipal arena project, the cost of modernizing the Sudbury Community Arena “to a standard consistent with a new events centre” was preliminarily estimated at between $115.4 million if done in one phase and $118.6 million if done in two phases. Plus, the activities of the Sudbury Wolves and Sudbury Five would be disrupted during construction.

The KED arena cost was estimated at between $87 million to $92.8 million, excluding site development costs. Also not included is the fact the Sudbury Community Arena will still need to be dealt with, whether it’s repurposed or torn down. 

Although the argument of cost is up for debate, the question of whether the project should have been located downtown carries an even murkier and subjective answer.

“Maintaining and renewing the historic downtown as the heart of the city and the public transit hub” is important, Crowe said. “It’s the right thing to do for the city to foster an attractive, vibrant, urban downtown with its cultural institutions and maybe even commerce again. It is good for the city, to attract business and for visitors alike.”

The counterpoint by Bigger is that there are a handful of major developments in the city’s downtown core, including Place des Arts and Junction East, and other existing amenities which “attract individuals from outside of the core into the core, and they do it on a fairly consistent basis.”

“I often ask people to think of the Sudbury Arena at this moment — and it could be any time of day — and tell me, what’s happening inside the arena?” he added. “The arena alone is not anything that will save the downtown, or has saved the downtown.”

Affordable housing within close proximity to the city’s downtown core would have a much greater impact, he said, pointing to the city’s downtown heyday, in which much more affordable housing was available in the area.

A major housing project called Project Manitou is one such effort, which Bigger said will join other efforts to help turn things around.

Verdict: Questionable.

The City of Greater Sudbury cannot afford the KED

Whether the city can afford the KED is subjective, as it’s up to the taxpayer.

“The financing plan for the Arena/Event Centre was approved in the City’s 2018 budget,” according to the city’s emailed statement. 

“It includes debt financing to be repaid over 30 years through the tax levy, fundraising, revenues (naming rights), new funding sources such as the Municipal Accommodation Tax, and reallocating funds from community funding obligations that are now complete.”

Approved in 2019 and secured the following year, the city has already borrowed $90 million for the project, which is being spent as the project rolls out as the balance earns interest.

The city’s total debt load is projected to reach $327 million in 2022, which is a significant leap from the $18.98 million recorded in 2014. 

In 2020, the City of Greater Sudbury paid approximately $6.3 million in interest on its debts, which was $3.67 million more than the city paid the previous year but partially offset by interest earned on those debts yet to be spent. 

The existing Sudbury Community Arena is now 70 years old, Bigger said, adding that if the KED lasts as long as the current arena has before being replaced, its budget paired against the city’s annual capital budget, which is currently approximately $200 million, makes it feel more affordable.

Plus, he said the economic spinoff, including the casino and hotel developments and other area expansion, should help offset its costs.

“On that basis, I really see the potential as we move forward for some private sector investment in that whole area — and it will be significant to the City of Greater Sudbury.”

Verdict: Largely a matter of opinion

City council members were left uninformed

The Minnow Lake Restoration Group’s pursuit of a judicial review of city council’s handling of the KED alleges that mayor, council and senior staff made numerous errors in law and left inquiries from councillors unanswered.

Although their challenge has yet to be tested in court, transcripts of past meetings show how various elected officials were assured that various reports would be included in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the KED. 

During a meeting on Feb. 9, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland requested that a Climate Energy and Emissions Plan be included in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report.

In response, Ian Wood, the city’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Service, said that although the “lens is not fully developed,” he understood council’s intent. He concluded, “I think this is an appropriate request to give that consideration through this process and incorporate it into the June report.”

During this same meeting, Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre requested that the report include an economic impact assessment, to which Wood responded, “I can indicate that the economic impact analysis will be more robust in this report than in 2017.”

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann requested that the owner of the hotel be identified and that council know of the financial situation regarding Gateway, which was to establish a casino at the KED.

“Our intention is to provide up-to-date information on our partner’s commitment, yes, as part of this report,” Wood responded.

On these and other things to be included in the report, McCausland asked, “Do we require an amendment to ensure that those will be part of this report, or is it understood and we will be quite confident that they will come forward in the June report?”

After a short back and forth between Mayor Brian Bigger and Wood about understanding the livestream, Wood said, “I think council can rely on us to incorporate those types of considerations within the report.”

These considerations were not included in the report.

Regardless of the information they were presented, city council members voted in favour of the project moving forward.

Verdict: It’s true the reports didn’t include information some councillors had asked for.

The KED will end up being a standalone arena

The ongoing concern of Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier is that the KED will end up being a standalone municipal arena, with the hotel and casino partners dropping off. 

Despite Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan’s insistence to the contrary, city administration, including two lawyers, has clarified that there is no legally binding commitment from the partners to build anything.

Ground was scheduled to break for site preparation work on Nov. 29, but Gateway Casinos put the project on hold due to uncertainty around the project as a result of Minnow Lake Restoration Group legal action and the OPP’s investigation of Montpellier’s allegation that he was offered a bribe to support the KED site selection, a decision he did not vote on due to a declared conflict.

“Given this uncertainty around the project, it is not commercially reasonable for Gateway to continue to provide additional significant funding to the next phase of the project until these ongoing challenges are resolved and the entire scope of the project is confirmed to be moving ahead,” Gateway Casinos executive vice president development and construction Jagtar Nijjar wrote in correspondence to the city that was leaked to 

Meanwhile, Gateway Casinos expressed continued support for the project and hotel partner Genesis Hospitality was announced on Dec. 9. 

As per the cost-sharing agreement, the site preparation costs will be split between the partners as follows: The city will commit $5.9 million, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment will spend $2.2 million, the hotel share is $1.1 million and the developer’s share is $530,000. 

Discussion around virtual council chambers lately has pointed to the idea that by putting these amounts down the partners have made a commitment, albeit not a legally-binding one.

In recent weeks, both Kirwan and Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland have said they plan on bringing forward motions that call for legally binding commitments from the project’s partners. In Kirwan’s case, it would be a written commitment that appeases those who don’t believe his interpretation that there already is one.

In the event the casino and hotel partners were to drop off, it’s unclear whether city council would vote to push forward with an arena, as talk around council chambers has consistently referred to the creation of a “critical mass” being created with all three structures in place.

Verdict: It’s a possibility.

The KED is not environmentally minded

“We shouldn’t develop any more roadways around the lake,” Minnow Lake Restoration Group president John Lindsay said of Ramsey Lake.

“We shouldn’t develop huge parking lots because parking lots and roadways are the largest contributor of sodium and chloride into the lake.”

Although the city has taken great strides in its re-greening efforts, he contends the city’s 330 lakes and their adjoining watersheds have been largely ignored.

Sharing a report from the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance, he noted there’s been an increase in sodium levels from 40 mg/l in 1994 to almost 60 mg/l in 2013, with a current level of approximately 50 mg/l. Chloride levels grew from 70 mg/l in 1994 to approximately 90 mg/l at the latest estimate.

“Increasing sodium and chloride levels are undoubtedly due to the use of road salt during the winter months and clearly demonstrate that water quality in Ramsey Lake is not being maintained,” they contend. 

In 2020, reported on these latest estimates, at which time the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance noted that sodium concentrations higher than 20 mg/l have to be reported to the medical officer of health, who in turn notifies community physicians.

“For persons with chronic diseases requiring a sodium-restricted diet, the intake of sodium from drinking water could be significant.”

A city communications staff member responded to Ramsey Lake-related concerns with the following emailed statement: “Traffic delays, urban sprawl, and environmental concerns were all considered in the background documents for the rezoning approvals in 2018 from the Planning Committee and Council. Some of these issues were appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), and the city was successful in defending the appeals.”

Bigger agrees with this assessment, and affirmed the city is going through all the steps it needs to make this project a reality. 

“The environmental question has also been dealt with through appeals, through knowing the proper processes,” he said. 

These processes include the creation of a stormwater management pond at the east and south side of the proposed arena and casino sites, according to a municipal report written in 2018. This infrastructure is required to address Ministry of Environment and Climate Change requirements with respect to the Clean Water Act, since the property is located within Intake Protection Zone 3 of Ramsey Lake.

“As a result, stormwater facilities in this area must provide enhanced level water quality control” and water quantity control, according to the report, which also cites other requirements to prevent “contaminant loads, minimizing changes in water balance and erosion, risks to human health, safety and property damage, use of pervious surfaces and promoting stormwater management best practices.”

The report notes the application of road salt and the storage of snow “could be a significant threat” in areas such as this, and points to various measures that can be undertaken to mitigate its spread downstream.

The site’s proximity to the city centre has also been cited as an environmental concern. 

By not centrally locating a municipal arena within a large population base, the city is ensuring people drive longer distances to get to the centre and thereby pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Berdusco wrote in his letter to the editor

Although he contends that the building will likely be constructed to a high environmental standard, the added carbon dioxide as a result of commuters will offset these savings.

“It has been demonstrated that the majority of the city’s population will have a greater journey to and from the KED site,” Crowe said. “It’s difficult to imagine that there will or could be any meaningful public transit solution to the KED that would be provided.”

The city’s website clarifies that transit routes are under review and that they will service the KED, which includes an integrated site plan designed with a dedicated lane for drop-off and pick-up at the main entrance. 

Further, they note that Brancroft Drive and Levesque Street across from the KED already have sidewalks and that Bancroft has designated bike lanes. The city plans on adding an edge line on the connecting Levesque Street for cycling and the integrated site plan includes a cycling/walking path through the KED site. 

Verdict: A viable debate

City council was bribed to support the KED

In a Facebook post Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier wrote in September, he alleged that he did not vote on the location for a new municipal arena in 2017 due to an “offered financial incentive.”

Although Montpellier subsequently insisted he was not offered a bribe, city council voted to have his allegations investigated by police.

Verdict: Waiting on the OPP

The Sudbury Landfill Site will create a smelly situation

“The very idea of building the KED on this site close to the dump is patently absurd,” Crowe said, which has been a common criticism of the project. 

It’s not exactly “out in the sticks,” as some have claimed, with commercial properties and a mainly residential neighbourhood to its immediate south. went doorknocking in the neighbourhood this autumn and found that most area residents weren’t terribly concerned about odour, though it did happen on occasion.

City director of environmental services Renee Brownlee clarified that to the end of September, there had been 10 odour complaint days related to the Sudbury Landfill Site.

There used to be more complaints until the city put additional odour mitigation measures in place, Brownlee said, adding that it remains an ongoing challenge and an integral part of the job.

Verdict: It might smell on occasion.


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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for
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