By Bruce Heidman, Sudbury Star.
Since presenting their plan to city council in November, the True North Strong group, which hopes to build a new event centre in Greater Sudbury, has been sharing its vision across the city with individuals and groups.
While in the process of sharing their plans for a new building to replace the aging Sudbury Community Arena, the group was also listening. As a result, True North Strong, which is led by local businessmen Dario Zulich, Perry Dellelce and Andrew Dale, held a press conference at MIC restaurant Monday outlining changes to the original design. Seating has been redesigned to accommodate 7,000 to 8,000 people and two extra ice pads to the building.
“During the past six months since we launched our project idea to the community, we spent a lot of time engaging with various stakeholders, individuals and groups and it has been a great journey talking about building up our city and what we learned we have incorporated,” Dale said.
“Everyone we spoke to, the stakeholders we spoke to, said this building needs to be bigger if you want attract the truly big acts, and I am so excited about that,” Zulich added. “Then adding the two pads just made sense as a sports facility. This facility makes sense, we have the property the parking and land availability and we can make it a destination.
“The project is starting to evolve,” he added. “We’re finding the event centre can support 7,000 to 8,000 seats. It is turning into a regional event centre and it will attract regional and national acts and events, so we need a venue bigger than 6,000 seats, and this will allow us to attract any kind of act from across the country. We want a regional centre that will profess to the rest of the country that we are the capital of the North, and a project of this magnitude and quality demonstrates that.”
Dale said the group has taken to heart all the feedback it has received.
“It becomes an opportunity to not only create jobs in the short term, but also in the long term to create jobs and attract tourism and make Sudbury a centre for tourism,” he said. “We have spoke with the Northeastern Ontario Trades Council and took their feedback and input and incorporated it into our plan, we have met with the local hospitality group and they have endorsed our plan because they want to bring more people to our community. We are excited to learn the details that are needed for huge events and we are incorporating into the design.”
Project supporters Jim Gordon, Joe Drago, John Lindsay and Chris Sheridan on hand to add their voice.
“When Dario first started talking about this matter, I sat down with him and we have had many, many conversations,” said former mayor Gordon. “Sudbury has done the educational component of the North, we have done the retail and the hospital, it is time now for us to do the event centre side. It will bring jobs and events many people would otherwise never see and it will bring some world-class hockey, the Memorial Cup, could well bring the AHL, we don’t know, and with the added ice pads a part of the complex, it will go a long way to solving a problem of decaying rinks we have had for some time now.
“It is forward thinking and we are fortunate we have people like Dario and his group who want to do this because we need an event centre, we need the economy it will bring and the kind of blow it gives Sudbury and the rest of Canada.”
Drago was equally enthusiastic.
“For so long we have talked about improving the hockey facilities in this community, and my heart and soul was at Sudbury Arena for so many years, but if you look at it now and travel various places in Canada and Europe and you see the buildings being built that are so conducive to big events, Sudbury Arena is passe and it is time we do something,” said the Hockey Canada chairman. “What I like about this proposal is it is an event centre, not just an arena, and it can have an economic impact on our community and it is a logical way to go.
“I am pleased to see it is between 7,000 and 8,000 seats now so you can bid on an event like the Memorial Cup,” he added. “We want to have some big name concerts, but we need a building that is conducive to their needs.”
Sheridan said it is simply time to replace Sudbury Community Arena.
“If we want to attract large events like the Brier or Memorial Cup, we need a facility that is a lot more accommodating than what have now,” he said. “Some forget that old building downtown was built in the 1950s and she’s tired and needs to be put into retirement. This group has some great ideas and I think it is an opportunity for our community to rally behind the troops, and let’s get ‘er done.”
Lindsay sits on a pair of boards representing local seniors and said now is the time for the project.
“As far as seniors are concerned, and we’re concerned about taxes and the health of the economy, Sudbury has reached that point where we might have maxed out growth with mining and retail and health and education, but we haven’t done the job yet in the arts and entertainment sector, so while we all love Sudbury Arena, it is time for something bigger and better for multi-purpose,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, a new arena is the sizzle to the steak and it will help the Wolves and entertainment on top of it and it what the city needs to be established as the centre of Northern Ontario because North Bay and the Sault have better facilities and we are taking a back seat.”
Zulich wants the event centre to be a legacy for Greater Sudbury.
“This is for Sudburians by Sudburians and that is what we have wanted to do from Day 1,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement and we would love to begin construction in 18 months. We are just patiently waiting for an RFP (request for proposals) to come out. There is a lot of information in our RFP and we are waiting patiently, humbly but anxiously waiting for the city.”