Arena decision disappoints Sudbury Wolves owner

By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star.

Dario Zulich is disappointed, but remains optimistic.

Zulich, the man behind the True North Strong Events Centre, says he is disappointed city council has decided to proceed with the request-for-proposals for a new arena according to its original schedule, but he understands and would not want a decision to be made too quickly.

“A lot of people would like to see something happen; there are a bunch of options to consider,” Zulich said this week. “It’s just taking a little longer than what we’d like to see, but it’s better not to make a decision in haste. We’ll just have to wait. Good things take time.”

The True North Strong Centre would be located along The Kingsway. It would include about 6,000 seats and two ice pads, and would cost about $60 million to build. Zulich owns the land on which he would like to build the events centre and would operate it as a public-private partnership. He also recently bought the Sudbury Wolves, who would be the primary tenant for any new arena.

On Tuesday, council voted down 9-2 a motion that Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan had introduced that would have bumped up the timeline for the RFP to January. In his motion, the RFP would have closed Jan. 31, and options would have been presented to council no later than Feb. 14.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m still optimistic it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when,” Zulich said.

Zulich said the city needs the economic boost and jobs the construction and operation of an events centre would provide.

“The sooner, the better, as far as I’m concerned,” he added. “But we need to do the right thing. But the stars won’t stay aligned forever and the federal and provincial governments aren’t going to be around forever to help out with projects. I hope the process will be complete in time for that.”

Zulich conceded arenas are expensive endeavours, but said the one he would like to build on The Kingsway would be for all of northeastern Ontario.

Despite his disappointment, Zulich said he will wait for council to respond to the RFPs it receives. There likely will not be any decisions made until at least next June.

“I’m willing to wait and abide by the process that council supports,” he told reporters.

He was reticent to elaborate on how the public-private partnership would work or whether a Zulich-owned barn would increase taxes for Sudbury taxpayers, but said there are a number of options on the table.

“We’re just waiting for the (RFP) to come out and it’ll all be available,” he said. Once the RFP is issued, there should be more information that will become publicly available regarding costs, expenses and the operations of the events centre. “But in the interim, we have to consider plans B and C.”

Zulich reiterated that his wish is to work “with the city.”

Dalron Ltd., a prominent Sudbury developer, has also proposed an arena. According to a presentation the company made last November to council, it would be a $74-million events centre located in the city’s South End. It would include seating for 6,500 for sporting events and 7,500 for entertainment events. Dalron asked the city last November for $1.5 million annually in operating costs.

John Arnold could not be reached for comment for this story.