Say this about Dario Zulich — he doesn’t lack boldness or vision.
In a meeting with Sudbury Star staff, Zulich outlined his plans for land he owns on The Kingsway. The centerpiece, of course, remains the True North Strong Centre, which he wants to build to replace the aging Sudbury Arena. Only he now wants 7,500 to 8,000 seats (plus two additional ice pads). In comparison, Sudbury Arena has less than 5,000 seats and is a single ice pad.
Zulich said the event centre could also serve as a conference and convention facility — long talked about in Sudbury, but a goal that has remained elusive.
He also said the companies that will win the bid to open five casinos in Northern Ontario may build one beside the event centre. Zulich said the casino could bring in one million visits a year, generating $85 million in revenue annually, double what Slots at Sudbury Downs generates. The casino would also help bring in 30 to 40 big entertainment acts a year.
In addition, he said the land could host a motorsports park, which like the conference and convention centre, has long been talked about. There’s more: he has a major hotel chain lined up to erect a four-star hotel, which would be Sudbury’s first, plus three new restaurants.
As for the old arena, Zulich said it could be recycled as a school for the creative and performing arts, housing arts and culture programs, galleries and museums. “You could turn it into the centre of the universe for arts and culture in northeastern Ontario,” Zulich said, pointing out the building’s proximity to the Laurentian School of Architecture and the proposed Place des Arts.
“This is smack in the middle of the Elgin Street Greenway,” he said. “It could be their showpiece (for the downtown).”
If fully realized, Zulich’s vision would create a true entertainment district. There are, of course, no lack of questions: How much will this cost and who pays? Will council even agree to build a new arena? Will the winning bidder build the casino beside True North Strong Centre?
It’s interesting that Zulich, a businessman and the new owner of the Sudbury Wolves, continues to push the events centre. Council appears to be in no hurry to make a decision and has commissioned an expensive $275,000 study on what to do with the arena. Zulich is a basketball player and fan, so you could say that on this issue, he’s driving hard to the basketball with his elbows up.
Let’s see if council has the vision, and the courage, to keep up.