Groups pitch arena plans for Kingsway, South End

by Darren MacDonald – Staff Writer @Darrenmacd

Events centres among 16 big projects presented at daylong session Friday at city hall

A whole lot of big projects and big ideas got a public airing Friday at a day-long session at Tom Davies Square.

In all, 16 groups pitched projects in front of city council, ranging from ideas that have been discussed for years – a new main library and art gallery – to proposals that were presented publicly for the first time.

They include two plans to replace downtown Sudbury Arena, with one group hoping to build a $60 million events centre on The Kingsway, while another called for a $70 million centre in the city’s South End.

Dario Zulich is heading up plans to build the True North Strong Sports and Entertainment Centre on 100 acres in the Jack Nicholas Business and Innovation Park along with partners Perry Dellelce and Andrew Dale. Zulich said the sorry state of the 64-year-old Sudbury Arena has meant Sudbury has missed out on hosting major concert, sporting and other events.

“We shouldn’t let that happen anymore,” he said.

Zulich’s group presented a business plan that would see the facility build as a P3 project. Local taxpayers wouldn’t have to provide money up from, instead the city to provide “the security and borrowing power behind the project rather than capital investment.”

In turn, the group would operate the facility for 30 years, then turn it over to the city, under a similar arrangement as the $60 million biosolids plant completed last year.

The site is close to downtown, is properly zoned for the development, has plenty of space for parking and other commercial developments, including a 200-room hotel.

“It’s two minutes from Costco,” Zulich said. “Our centre will attract people from everywhere … Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and North Bay … All roads will lead to Sudbury.

“We’re not asking for money,” Zulich said. “We’re just asking council to make this a priority … Greater Sudbury needs a centre like this. And I think Greater Sudbury wants a centre like this.”

“It’s a business model that works,” added Tom Anselmi, the former president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “This project can finance itself … It’s an extraordinary opportunity.”

For more information, go to the group’s website.

Fabio Fiumana, of McCor Management, and John Arnold from Dalron spoke for the South End arena proposal.

Fiumana said the project would create a multi-purpose event centre to replace the aging downtown arena.

“We think the city and community have outgrown it,” he said.

He said Sudbury Wolves are 10th in attendance in the OHL, and it’s no coincidence that the nine teams ahead of them all have new or updated arenas.

Their development would be a state-of-the-art facility that would hold 6,500 people for hockey, and 7,500 for other events. Their model is based on a 70 per cent occupancy rate, conservative, he said, since the current Sudbury Arena’s rate is 81 per cent.

He said the group looked at New Sudbury, but there was a lack of available land in a proper location. Looked at Highway 17, but determined it was too far away from population centres.

They also considered downtown, but the lack of parking is a serious issue.

“And it isn’t a convenient location for out-of-town visitors,” Fiumana said. “Another issue is, where would the Wolves play for the two years it would take to rebuild this arena?”

Their location near the Four Corners includes 50 acres, with room for other developments.

“We think that it’s ready to go,” he said. “The location is convenient and easy to find for out of town visitors – it’s just off the TransCanada (highway).”

Their proposal includes an indoor soccer stadium, a second ice rink and several commercial amenities.

The preliminary budget is $70.5 million to build, as well as $5 million to operate each year.

Based at 70 per cent occupancy, that’s about $10 on event tickets, with 112 paid dates a year. Ticket prices should average about $25, he added.

“We think the ideal location would be Sudbury south,” he said, with the old arena being re-purposed for other projects that are being developed.

If managed properly, “I think it will be self-sustaining,” Fiumana said.

“This certainly has been an interesting day,” said Mayor Brian Bigger at the end of the session, praising the “bold and innovative” presented Friday.

The next step for the arena projects – and the other 14 presented Friday – will be to have the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation take a closer look at each, and prepare recommendations for city council to look at in the new year.