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Arena discussions heat up as North Bay council wants to solidify budget


Despite city reports that said the West Ferris Arena is at the end of its life, North Bay councillor Jamie Lowery said there’s still a chance to modernize the aging facility.

Lowery said he’d prefer that instead of building a new facility at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex.

“There is space to put a transition building in the middle for programming and either build one way or the other way perpendicular to it and really create a community hub here,” he said.

After city council voted 9-2 to issue a request for proposal for a progressive design/build for the twin-pad arena and community recreation centre project with a budget of $60 million, Lowery called for a notice of reconsideration.

The move delayed a final vote on the matter until the next meeting.

“I have to vote my conscience,” Lowery said.

“Before the election, I signed on for certain things. Unless there’s some compelling reason to change my mind, which I haven’t seen yet, I can’t let people down.”

After city council voted 9-2 to issue a request for proposal for a progressive design/build for the twin-pad arena and community recreation centre project with a budget of $60 million, one city councillor called for a notice of reconsideration.

The city is calling for a new arena to be completed in 2025 to coincide with the city’s 100th birthday. By making the arena meet net-zero carbon building design requirements, the city can access nearly $26 million in federal funding.

Veteran councillor Mac Bain said council can’t afford to push it down the line any further and said council needs to make a decision.

He doesn’t want future councils to have to deal with the issue.

“When the bid comes back and it lets us know what the amount is, council will have an ultimate decision whether or not to move forward with it,” said Bain.

Bids came in too high

In September, council voted to move forward with the project at a maximum cost of $52 million. But the firm hired to lead the bidding process told council that potential bidders said they can’t deliver the facility for that price or in the aggressive timeline the city would like.

That same report also came with an estimated increase of at least $8 million. Some potential bidders estimated that net-zero requirements could add as much as 20 per cent to the final cost.

“I’m not a fan of $60 million,” Bain said.

“How many years of a commitment is that going to be that we’re committing to funding from other capital projects and other projects that the city wants to do to fund this?”

Lowery fears the high price would mean council will have to leverage everything it has for the arena project, like the provincial gas tax funding and revenue the city receives from the Cascades Casino.

“We’ll be using every lever the city has, including gas tax which is geared for roads and sidewalks,” Lowery said.

“We’re emptying every piggy bank for hockey. We’re saying that’s the most important thing in our community.”

The city is hoping to build two ice pads that can seat 250 fans each, 12 change rooms that can fit up to 25 people, a 223-space parking lot with 10 accessible parking spaces and city bus drop-off area.

Mayor Peter Chirico has called for a special council meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. so council can pick up where it left off. Top Stories

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