City prioritizes arts, sports projects

By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star.

Sudbury could be home one day soon to a new arena, an arts hub and a convention centre. Just imagine the concerts, conferences and ballets that Sudburians could experience.

Council discussed on Tuesday several large projects that were initially presented in November, prioritizing them to decide which ones to pursue.

The projects they discussed could have significant economic impacts on the city, Mayor Brian Bigger said, and could move the city forward, solidifying Sudbury’s reputation at the unofficial capital of northern Ontario.

“They will also have a lasting impact on quality of life and the identity of Greater Sudbury,” he added. “Many of the projects we’ll be reviewing tonight have the potential to change our city. The most transformational projects will “¦ create a special place that will provide a sense of civic pride and place, enhance quality of life and stimulate investment in employment. We’re living in the hub of northern Ontario. It is time to invest in our community.”

Council debated 16 projects, including two arenas, several arts spaces, housing projects and the local food space Eat Local Sudbury had proposed.

The first arena, the True North Strong Centre, would be located along The Kingsway near the landfill site. The $60 million project includes at least one ice pad and would seek active participation from the city, though a financial commitment has not been defined.

The second events centre, proposed by Dalron, would be located in the south end and comes with a price tag of $74 million. Dalron is asking the city for $1.5 million annually in operating costs.

Council split into two groups and worked with facilitators to whittle down those 16 projects to four priorities.

Council liked the Art Gallery of Sudbury and library combo, which would share a space, as well as Place des Arts, which got support from both groups. The artsjunction live/work complex for creators got support from one group.

As expected, the events centre and arena got support from both groups, as did the Synergy Centre, a convention and performance art space that would be located downtown. Surprisingly, the Rail to the Future also got support from one group.

“This is really just an endorsement to move forward with these projects if they make sense,” Bigger said.

In the end, council voted to prioritize four projects: the arenas, the Art Gallery of Sudbury/library, Place des Arts and the Synergy Centre. The crowd was pleased and gave councillors a big round of applause.

Staff takes over now, to gather more information about each priority.

“We’re looking now for more detailed information and a more intense process of collecting information to bring back to council. This will give us a much clearer idea of the economic value that staff believes is inherent in these projects, as well as an improvement to our community,” Bigger said following Tuesday’s meeting. “As top priorities of council, I think it was very clear tonight that we had good consensus on these projects.”

The goal, Bigger said, is to move forward with all four projects. But of course, that will depend on funding and economic impact.

“We really needed to identify the projects we wanted to invest in to get to that next stage,” he added.

Joscelyne Landry-Altmann and Evelyn Dutrisac pointed out that some projects were overlooked – such as seniors’ housing and housing for those with acquired brain injuries, as well as an arts common that would be located on Mackenzie Street and Eat Local’s Seed to Plate Commons – by the system council adopted for the evening. They advised staff to continue addressing these ideas.

“This is not the end for projects that were not prioritized,” Bigger replied, clarifying after the meeting that groups may still apply for funding via different channels.