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Sudbury considers building new $200M downtown arena

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Two years after rejecting spending $215 million on a new arena on the Kingsway, city council in Sudbury is considering spending a similar amount building an arena downtown.

A report headed to council April 16 said the city would have to borrow $135 million to top up the amount already borrowed for the Kingsway Entertainment District, the project that was abandoned in July 2022 after costs soared.

More recently, the city has purchased properties downtown, most of which were slated to be part of a similar downtown arena proposal that was rejected in 2017 when councillors voted to support the KED.

Under the current proposal, the city would have $7.8 million in annual debt repayments for the new arena, assuming it can borrow the $135 million at four per cent interest.

The goal is to open the new building in April 2028.

Repairing the existing 73-year-old Sudbury Arena would be a complicated process, the report said, and would not bring the added investment opportunities of a new build.

“Generally, the additional investigation is complex, involving significant additional costs estimated at $500,000,” the staff report said.

“It also requires the facility’s closure while the investigation is underway. The facility closure would involve service interruptions and the removal of materials, including finishes, to perform exploratory analysis and the use of specialty equipment.”

By building new, there is much less construction risk and more opportunities to create new revenue streams and attract private investment, the report said.

A renovated building would also not provide such things as allowing transports to access the event floor to unload for concerts and other events or to be accessible for those with disabilities.

$180M for full renovation

Cost estimates for renovations that would provide equal benefits of a new build are $180 million, the report said, not far from the cost of a new building.

“Furthermore, it is important to understand that there will be reduced revenues for a renewal compared to a new build over the first 25 years of operation,” the report said.

“This reflects the different operating characteristics that would produce lower revenues from suite leases, reduced attendance and fewer shows.”

When the lost revenue is taken into account, the report said building new is cheaper.

“The new event centre presents a unique opportunity for Greater Sudbury to build an inspiring facility that aligns with policy direction on climate change and showcases leading sustainability design solutions,” the report said.

Greater Sudbury has long struggled to replace the Elgin Street arena. After opening the process to proposals, the former city council chose to build on the Kingsway alongside a casino and hotel in 2017.

That decision sparked a protracted court battle, which the city ultimately won. But the delays, the COVID-19 pandemic and soaring inflation raised the cost of the new arena from $100 million to $215 million, prompting the city to pull out not long before the 2022 municipal election.

Read the full report here.

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