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Tea with the editor: We sit down with Wolves owner Dario Zulich editor Mark Gentili recently sat down for tea with Sudbury Wolves owner and True North Strong event centre proponent, Dario Zulich.

Since purchasing the Sudbury Wolves and announcing his desire to build a massive event centre project on The Kingsway with a footprint larger than downtown Sudbury, a lot of ink was spilled on Zulich-related news in 2016.

During their extended chat, Zulich opened up about growing up the child of immigrants in the Donovan, how he got into real estate at 19 while still in university, his work as a developer and builder, and ultimately his desire to build what he’s calling an “entertainment district” on The Kingsway in Greater Sudbury — a project he wants Sudbury taxpayers to guarantee the loans for.

The conversation is long, so if you want to skip to the topics that interest you, here’s a list of time stamps to make it a bit easier for you.

0:00:45 Growing up Italian
0:17:30 Purchasing 29 townhouses at the age of 19
0:28:08 First commercial real estate property
0:33:20 TESC
0:47:59 Persistence leads to the purchase of the Sudbury Wolves
1:00:13 True North Strong event centre
1:28:30 Mayor Zulich?

This edition of Tea with the Editor was filmed at Beards Coffee Bar and Bakery on Kathleen Street, sharing one of Sudbury’s coolest corners with Sweet Nothings, Tuco’s Tacos and Cosmic Dave’s. Check them out if you’re ever in the neighbourhood. Thanks a lot to Beards for being such gracious hosts.

Stop by Beards if you’re able. They have some pretty delicious vegan baked goods.

Is there a local newsmaker you’d like Gentili to chat with? Email

Proposed Sudbury arena would be “showpiece of Northern Ontario”

by: Ella Myers

The proposed True North Strong Event Centre has Sudbury hockey enthusiasts excited, but the space could be for work, not just play.

The developers say it could be used for corporate events, and they want to build something big enough to house them.

“Sudbury is the capital of Northern Ontario. We want to design a conference, convention, events centre that is like-minded, on the same scale as the city,” said Dario Zulich, the local developer who is leading the True North Strong bid.

“We’re not going to design a baby arena or a baby convention centre.”

Zulich is a local developer who purchased the Sudbury Wolves, the city’s Ontario Hockey League franchise, and he’s working on the True North Strong arena plan with his business partners, Perry Dellelce and Andrew Dale.

A new arena is one of four large projects being conditionally supported by city councillors.

Others include a new art gallery and main library, an arena and events centre, the Synergy Centre, and Place des Arts.

The True North Strong team first presented their plan for a new arena to city council in November, and expect to hear whether their project can proceed by May. Zulich is confident about it going forward.

“I never thought of it [not getting approved] because where else can it go,” said Zulich.

Their pitch places the site in Sudbury’s northeast end, two kilometres off the Trans-Canada Highway.

Some proponents prefer keeping the city’s main arena in the downtown area. However, Zulich remains convinced their location is preferable and said it would be appealing to corporate audiences.

He points to the “ample parking” they’ll include, and their proximity to the Sudbury airport.

“Being close to the airport is paramount.”

Zulich hopes the centre would help create a new district in that end of town, comparing it to the neighbourhoods that mining companies like Falconbridge and Inco created for their employees.

Inside, the centre will boast two skating pads and a capacity of nearly 8,000.

The facility’s space would be flexible to convert into convention halls suited to trade shows, conferences and allow for private spaces for breakout sessions.

“It would be a state-of-the-art event centre with state of-the-art electronics, sight lines, audio, acoustics, state of-the-art communication and telecommunication,” said Zulich. “There’s nothing else in northeastern Ontario like this.”

Part of that technology includes plans to become a net zero carbon facility. Zulich said they will work with Greater Sudbury Utilities to figure out how to operate it as a green facility.

“I’m not just looking at the next two years or five, but the next 20,” said Zulich. “I’m not building a building; I’m building an industry, a tourism industry, a sports tourism industry.”

The facility proposal appears to be in step with the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation’s plans to bring more sports tourism to the region.

The city currently has a bid in for the Canada Summer Games in 2021 which they say has the potential to bring $16.5 million to the city.

However, they would need more venues and spaces to accommodate the 19 sports events.

Zulich’s hope is that the centre will draw even more events like that, and encourage more tourism and travel to the city.

Sudbury letter: Frustrated with arena


I attended the Sudbury Wolves game on Sunday. I parked on Grey Street on a across from the Townehouse, on a non-business day.

With little traffic in the area, my vehicle, which did not obstruct anyone or anything, was complemented with a $25 parking ticket by a city bylaw officer.

The old arguments: accessibility, availability, closeness to the venue, will never be addressed by keeping the arena in its present location.

Sour grapes, sure, but as a 25-year plus season ticket holder of our Wolves, I have followed the debate of a new arena closely. I, like many season ticket holders on game day, drive to the venue, do not eat or go shopping downtown; remember, most games are evening and therefore not conducive for those activities.

It is a pain getting in and out there, and finding suitable parking. The new venue being proposed, with easy parking and access, modern facilities with a restaurant and all the other positive amenities that will be part of the complex, makes it mandatory that it needs to be away from its present location were there is no space to accomplish this.

The new group has the land availability in an area where all of this can be corrected with limited cost to the taxpayer.

Julio Navarro


Who is Dario Zulich? We sit down with the man who says his plan can transform the Nickel City

by: Darren MacDonald.

There’s a well-known, likely apocryphal story about Albert Einstein, that he wore almost the same thing every day so he could save his brainpower for science.

So I asked Dario Zulich, the new owner of the Sudbury Wolves, if that was the deal with the white shirt and jeans he religiously wears every day, everywhere he goes.

“I don’t know where it came from,” Zulich replies, sitting in one of the many side rooms at Sudbury Arena. “I’ve bought 15 white shirts, 15 pairs of jeans from Mark’s Work Wearhouse and I wear the same thing every day. I never have to think about what I’m going to wear. And I don’t have to worry about how I look.”

Zulich burst into the Sudbury news scene more than a year ago with his ambitious proposal to replace the badly outdated Sudbury Arena.
Along with business partner and lifelong friend Perry Dellelce, Zulich wants to build a $60-million to $70-million events centre on land the two own The Kingsway, near Moonlight Beach.

He’s competing with a rival proposal in the South End, as well as with residents who believe the city’s main rink should stay downtown. And he’s hoping this city council will do what no other done since the 1950s: voluntarily take the political risk of getting behind a major public expenditure.

Zulich’s group hasn’t asked for money directly, but the city would have to act as a loan guarantor. So the odds are long.
Persistence is key

But that’s not how Zulich sees it. His enthusiasm and his relentlessness has already accomplished one thing no one saw coming: The purchase of the Wolves, reportedly for more than $11 million, from longtime owner Mark Burgess.

It took two years of “no’s”, Zulich says, before he got the “yes” he was looking for. But it wasn’t just determination – he says owning the team was an important part of making the events centre work.

“We did an analysis on the economics of an arena, and the more I looked at it, the more it looked like it really makes a lot of sense for the builder and operator of the facility to also be the main tenant,” Zulich said. “It made sense, so I approached Mark a long time ago and it was never for sale.

“I was on him over and over and over until he finally relented. He even acknowledged that it was my persistence that made him say, ‘OK, I’m going to sell the team. I just wouldn’t give up.’ ”

It was a relentlessness that has served Zulich well in the past. The oldest of four brothers, he grew up in the Donovan where his mother and father worked hard at founding a real estate business. His mother, Ann, an immigrant from Italy in 1959, met his father, Miro, an immigrant from what is now Croatia, in Sudbury and married soon after.

An iron worker, Miro saved his money until the family had enough to buy a property in Sudbury.

“He did that during the day, and at nighttime, instead of buying their first house, they bought their first apartment building,” Dario says.

After that first purchase in 1965, the family kept expanding the business and Zulich Enterprises today has more than 1,000 apartments and 300,000 square feet of commercial property.

A new dream

A graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s prestigious business school, Dario says he initially wanted to be a basketball player. He tried out as a walk-on player and proudly says he made the team on the very last day of cuts.

A knee injury his second year put an end to that dream — surgeries weren’t as advanced then as they are today, he says — so he came up with a Plan B.

“I was looking around, wondering what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “They had a pretty good business school there. And I just pounded on the door until they let me in. I was relentless about getting in to that school. And after two years, I graduated and I came straight back home.”

He worked in the family business, encouraging them to expand into commercial real estate.

“From there, we got into construction, as well. And then into residential development. We grew our business into a full-service real estate development company.”

By then he was married to Julie, whose father Tom owned TESC Engineering. Tom was looking to retire and looked to Dario to buy the business and take over.

“So the opportunity presented itself and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to jump in,’ ” Zulich said. “I talked to my family — for me, it’s always about family — and my dad said, what makes one of us stronger makes us all stronger. He said go ahead and do it, and do the best you can. If (it doesn’t work), you can always come back home.

“Those were the words of encouragement that I needed. And that’s the attitude I’ve taken right down to this latest venture. My parents and my brothers have always encouraged me, giving me the strength I need to do anything.”

‘The stars are aligned’

While at TESC, the company won the bid to provide steel for the Essar Centre in the Sault, which opened in 2006. At the same time, he and Dellelce were owners of the large property on The Kingsway, which they dubbed the Jack Nicholas Business and Innovation Park.

“Perry’s son is Jack, my son is Nicholas,” Zulich says, explaining the name.

One of his favourite expressions – one he uses often – is that the stars are aligned to make the arena/events centre a reality. For one, the city is finally moving ahead with the Maley Drive extension, which would offer Valley residents easier access to the park, as well as anyone coming from Highway 17.

Another, he already has arena-building experience from the Essar Centre.

“I said if we can do it for someone else, we can do this for ourselves,” Zulich said. “I’m also a developer, and I had the inclination that I wanted to build it. And we had the property. So I thought, the better use is to build the new Sudbury Arena out there. That’s where my interest came from.”

Also, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is set to announce in early 2017 an operator for a long-awaited casino in Sudbury. Not only is the operator a possible financial resource in building a new arena, a casino that’s part of of a larger events centre is a big boost to the viability of the project. Plus, The Kingsway is already one of the preferred locations for a gaming facility.

Added to that, city council has named a new arena as one of its four big projects it has identified as priorities, along with the Place des arts, the Synergy Centre and a new library/art gallery. And unlike the arena, those projects are expected to require tax money up front.

“The age of the arena, that I was able to buy the team, the casino that wants to come to town, the fact the land we own is serviced — everything seems to be making sense,” Zulich said. “That includes the fact the city wants to build these four big initiatives — we can have our cake and eat it, too.

“We want to create a downtown village of arts and culture — we can have that, too. I get shivers thinking about all of this. Everything says let’s do this. And my only fear is that we won’t take advantage of this opportunity. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s like Haley’s Comet. We have to take advantage of it.”

The city is currently working on the criteria that will go into the request for proposals for the arena. It was announced this week the consultant hired to establish the criteria the city would like to see in a new arena/event centre (and which developers will use as the basis when they pitch their plans) will complete his work by the end of February, two months early. This likely means the request for proposals process, which was slated for next summer or fall, can begin earlier.

If the True North Strong plan put forward by Dellelce and Zulich is the one that’s picked, the man in the white dress shirt said building the centre will take two years.

Team player

In the meantime, he’s also focused on rebuilding the Wolves, who have missed the playoffs in recent years and suffered a decline in attendance. A successful team is key to making everything work, he says. No hockey expert himself, Zulich said his strength is in identifying and hiring good managers and letting them do their jobs.

“I am not one that is going to meddle with the hockey operations,” he said. “I’m in the business of hockey and now, in the business of building an arena. But I’m not going to meddle in those areas I know little about.

“One of my greatest assets is that I’m self aware. I know that I don’t know much about running a hockey team, and that self awareness will cause me to get the right managers to put the right program in place. I’m going to hire the right managers in the areas of hockey operations, in the area of marketing, in public relations and in concessions.”

Bigger picture, Zulich says he’s noticed more people recognize him now and many are placing hopes in him that he’ll turn the team around, another of the many difficult challenges he has placed before himself.

When asked why a well-off, 50ish successful businessman would want to take on such difficult task, Zulich doesn’t really have an answer.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve been asking myself that lately — why? People say to me, why are you doing this? You don’t need anything else. It’s just something inside me. When they asked Sir Edmund Hillary why did you climb Mount Everest, he just said because it was there. There was just something driving him to take on that challenge.

“There’s just something inside me telling me this is the right thing to do. The opportunity is there. I’m feeling like I haven’t since I was a kid.”

PoV: Zulich outlines bold vision for Sudbury

By Sudbury Star Staff.

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.

Developer lays out ‘bigger’ vision for Sudbury

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star.

Dario Zulich believes the stars are aligned to make his vision of a major sports and entertainment development on the Kingsway in Sudbury a reality.

Zulich, a well-known local developer who owns TESC Contracting and the Sudbury Wolves hockey club, has been presenting his plan for the True North Strong complex to politicians, community groups, media and anyone else willing to listen, including those who favour a downtown arena.

He feels bolstered by news that both proponents who have entered bids to build a casino for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in the Sudbury area have expressed interest in placing it on the Kingsway property, a stone’s throw from the arena and event centre Zulich wants to build to replace the downtown Sudbury Community Arena, in a public-private partnership with the city.

“All of them have indicated they want to build a resort-style casino on our property,” said Zulich, while making a presentation at The Sudbury Star on Wednesday. “The two of them indicated they want to be right there on that spot and they want to build a $60 (million) $80-million-sized resort, almost like Casino Rama. They want to build three restaurants and have 250 rooms associated with them.”

With one million visits per year, Zulich said, the casino could bring in some $85 million in revenue, which he estimated would be twice what the city currently brings in from the slots at Sudbury Downs in Chelmsford.

“The bigger thing, from my point of view, is they are going to guarantee 30 to 40 big acts per year,” Zulich said. “You need the big acts coming through Sudbury, as opposed to just hockey. You’ve got to multi-use that building, right?”

Zulich presented his purchase of the Wolves last summer from the Burgess and Edwards families, and even his recent purchase of the water tower in downtown Sudbury, as part of his larger vision to put the city on the map as a regional sports, entertainment and arts and culture hub.

“This is part of a bigger picture and a bigger picture starts with a bigger mission, and the bigger mission is this – this movement will provide family entertainment for the City of Greater Sudbury,” Zulich said. “Our mission is not to make money. Money is a byproduct of doing something great, and that’s what we’re about to do here. The bigger vision is to create a sports and entertainment district, not just a building for downtown, not even an event centre for Sudbury. This is a sports and entertainment district for the City of Greater Sudbury.”

The plan includes three major parts.

The first is the 7,500- to 8,000-seat True North Strong Centre, with a main arena and a pair of extra ice pads, where he hopes to turn the Wolves into a contender capable of hosting the Memorial Cup national junior championship.

“But it’s not just an arena, not just an event centre, it’s a conference and convention centre,” Zulich said. “It’s entertainment first, an arena second.”

The second part of Zulich’s plan is the casino, and the third a motorsports park, just north of the True North Strong site.

The True North Strong group filed an expression of interest with the city earlier this year for the development of a motorsports park, which could host motocross, snowmobiling and several other events.

“Different market, different time of year, it compliments what we’re trying to do,” Zulich said.

“It’s a perfect bolt-on to use our services, the parking, the hotels – it’s a destination.”

Such a development could not fit downtown, Zulich said, superimposing the proposed layout on an overhead view of the downtown core to emphasize his point.

“We’d have to expropriate the whole of downtown,” he said.

“The BIA (Downtown Sudbury Business Improvement Area), they want one building downtown for their merchants and their restaurants. The person in Capreol, Coniston or Garson doesn’t care about one building. I’m not talking about one building – I’m talking about a destination for all of the City of Greater Sudbury.”

The Kingsway site is only a few minutes from downtown, a distance Zulich believes would make little difference to those travelling in from outlying communities.

He doesn’t believe the city officials should forsake Sudbury Community Arena, even if they back True North Strong. He believes the Wolves’ current home could have a renaissance as a school for the creative and performing arts, which could house various 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.”

The city is in the midst of a consultation process as party of its plan to replace 65-year-old Sudbury Community Arena, and may issue a request for proposal next June.

Zulich didn’t rule out bidding on a downtown rink, if council goes that direction, but he’s confident councillors will see the potential of his plan.

“Council will make its decision next summer, and I think they’ll make the right decision,” Zulich said.

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.

Wolves owner ‘disappointed’ by arena vote

by: Darren MacDonald –

The new owner of the Sudbury Wolves says he’s working on a “Plan B” after city council rejected a motion this week to speed up a decision on building a new arena.

Dario Zulich, who has proposed building the facility on land he and his partners own on The Kingsway, said Thursday he was hoping for a different result.

“I was disappointed,” Zulich said. “I’m going to have to consider Plan B and C, because I always have a Plan B and C. And eventually I’ll even have a Plan D. So I’ll have to reconsider all of my options.

“But you know what, it’s just going to take its due course. I think the right decision will be made sooner or later.”

Meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted on a motion from Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan to have the RFP for the events centre ready by January, with a 30-day deadline for bids. An amended motion extending the deadline to 90 days to give groups more time to prepare bids was defeated 6-5. Without that extension, Kirwan’s motion was defeated 9-2.

That means city staff is adhering to the original deadline, which is to have the criteria for the RFP ready by the end of June, and the actual RFP being issued some time after that.

However, Mayor Brian Bigger has said the June deadline could be moved up to March, and on Tuesday, he said staff know how important an issue this is and will work as quickly as possible.

Zulich attended Tuesday’s meeting, and walked out before the final vote. He said it wasn’t because he was upset.

“Our team was playing in Barrie and I needed to get in touch with (them),” he said. “I’ve got a hockey team to run.”

But he has heard from many in the community who were hoping council would get moving on the project,

“A lot of people would like to see something happen,” Zulich said. “And so does council, frankly. It’s just going to take a little longer than we would all like to see.

“We don’t want to make decisions in haste, for sure. All good things take time (So) I’m disappointed, but I’m still optimistic that it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.”

Time is a factor, he added, when asked how long the proposal he first made last November will stay on the table.

“The stars are only aligned for a short while,” he said. “The federal and provincial governments aren’t going to be around forever to help out with projects. And so I’m just hoping that the process can be completed in time for that.

“This city needs something to drive it economically. We need an economic boost. We need to create jobs, and the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned. But we have to do the right things.”

When asked whether the plan he and his partners have put together will cost taxpayer’s money up front, Zulich said he’ll have to wait to see what’s in the actual RFP before he can properly evaluate that.

“An arena is an expensive proposition,” he said. “There are a number of options in our proposal. We’re just waiting for the RFP to come out so we can put our case forward. I’m hoping we can do that sooner rather than later.

“But I’m willing to wait and abide by the process that council puts forward. In the interim, we have to consider Plan B or C.”

We are eager for a new era of Wolves hockey

by: Darren MacDonald.

Dario Zulich, CEO of TESC, partner in Zulich Enterprises and the True North Strong Event Centre proposal, officially announced Tuesday his purchase of the Sudbury Wolves.

In July, Zulich purchased 100 per cent of the franchise from the Burgess and Edwards families for a reported $11 million. The Board of Governors of the Ontario Hockey League approved the sale to Zulich on Aug. 18.

“As a proud Sudburian born and raised, I have seen first-hand how important the Wolves are to our community throughout their 45-year history in the OHL,”  Zulich said in a news release. “While the team belongs to the people of our great city, I am honoured and excited to be assuming this role in the community.

“I would like to thank my wife and family, my brothers, and all who have helped bring this dream to reality. I would also like to thank the previous owners of the Sudbury Wolves who have led the team for the past 45 years while establishing it as a leading developer of junior hockey talent in Canada.”

“Our objective moving forward is clear,” Zulich added. “The Wolves organization will become a model OHL franchise and a preferred destination for aspiring young hockey players.

“We want our players to learn the game, improve their skills, develop as young men and become outstanding members of our community. I can’t wait to get started. We are eager for a new era of Wolves hockey.”

The Sudbury Wolves have been a member of the OHL since 1972. The late Ken Burgess purchased the franchise in 1986 and the family has owned the team ever since.

Zulich has been the CEO of TESC Consulting Company Ltd., a heavy industrial multi-disciplined contracting firm, for the past 16 years.

He recently purchased the Sudbury water tower on Pearl Street with the intent to preserve and develop the iconic local landmark. He and two partners have proposed a public-private partnership project known locally as True North Strong to develop a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose, world-class event centre in Greater Sudbury.

Training camp for the Wolves opens Sept. 1. The first regular season game takes place Sept. 23 at Sudbury Arena. Schedule and ticket information is available at and ticket inquiries can be made at 705.675.3941.

Zulich wants to bring Wolves into a new era

By Bruce Heidman, Sudbury Star.

Dario Zulich stood under a big banner adorned with three simple words to announce a change in ownership for Sudbury’s flagship sports franchise.

A New Era the banner read, a pair of piercing wolf eyes staring over the block letters and out at the jam-packed press conference at Sudbury Community Arena.

The Sudbury Wolves officially have a new owner as of late last Friday as Zulich, a Sudbury born and raised businessman, purchased the franchise from Mark Burgess and his family, who had owned the championship-starved OHL outfit for 30 years.

A basketball player from his youth to his university days at Western, Zulich is the first to admit he has little experience with hockey. However, he is eager to learn and turn the Wolves into a winner, and said he will put the right people in place to improve the team’s fortunes.

“People ask me what I know about hockey, and one of my best characteristics is that I am self aware that I don’t know much about hockey and I am conscious about that, and being conscious of that, I will surround myself with good people that know good hockey,” he said. “I plan on being an owner, and if I have learned one thing it is that owners own, executives execute strategic plans, managers manage, coaches coach, trainers train and players play, and as long as we stick to our roles we are going to have an awesome organization.

“I have a vision and a destination, and a little at a time the whole organization is going to see it,” he added. “It is my job to make sure they see it and feel it and move toward it, and I believe we are on our way. Today is Day 2.”

Zulich highlighted three areas of focus to bolster the Wolves’ fortunes in the standings and the stands.

“This is a new era for the Sudbury Wolves and the objectives of the franchise are clear,” he said. “Number one, the Wolves organization will work hard to be a model OHL franchise and become a preferred destination for aspiring young hockey players. We want our players to learn the game, improve their skills, develop as young men and become outstanding members of our community. Number 2, we want to win and we want to win consistently year in and year out. We want to be Memorial Cup contenders. And lastly, No. 3, we will operate a world-class hockey operation, one everyone in the city will be proud of. We realize the fans are an important part of creating a winning team … without loyal fans there would be no Wolves, and I would like to thank all who have supported the Sudbury Wolves over the years.”

Zulich, the driving force behind the proposed True North Strong Centre, which hopes to build a new arena/event centre on the Kingsway on property he shares with Perry Dellelce, said he had been interested in purchasing the Wolves for the last two years.

“We bought the Wolves because I really want to do something for this community,” he said. “If (a new arena) happens to be on our site, that’s great, if it is not on our site, it doesn’t matter. The Wolves will stay and will play wherever the city puts the arena.”

“While I believe that the best location for a new event centre is on our location on the Kingsway, I would like to emphasize that should the city decides to build an arena elsewhere, the Wolves will be its greatest tenant, and if the city wants to build a coliseum, the Wolves will be its greatest warrior.”

Zulich led a toast to the new ownership with a room filled with former players, former owners, local hockey executives from other organizations, sponsors and well wishers.

“This is a milestone and I will always remember this day for the rest of my life and I am looking forward to this chapter,” Zulich said.

Hockey Canada chairman Joe Drago, a former part owner of the franchise and a former Wolves GM, applauded the change in ownership.

“As I said to Dario, when I sold the team to Mr. Ken Burgess, it was time for a change, and it is certainly time for a change right now,” he said. “Things have been pretty grim and a sour note throughout the community whenever you talk to anyone about the team, so it is time for a change and I think Dario has the passion to succeed and he is a man of Sudbury and the area, and I like his idea of the event centre and I hope it comes to fruition, but yes, it was time for a change and I am very pleased to see it happen.”

Local ownership is the key, Drago said.

“You can’t have a landlord that drifts in and out, and you need that stability and you need people to feel you are part of them, and I think with Dario and his family and the operation outside of hockey, there is evidence he is a local guy,” he said.

Drago expects the team’s makeup to morph slowly during the season.

“First and foremost, it is the people you have in your organization you are judged by at the league and community level, and he will have to decide whether to retain the entire group or make changes, and I am sure he is speaking with people and will make decisions,” Drago said. “When you first get into an organization like this, you can’t fly by the seat of your pants and push everyone out the door. It takes some time, and Dario is not fully versed in hockey and he needs some direction and mentoring and I am sure as you do that you realize who within the organization should stay and who shouldn’t.”

Zulich came to the press conference looking athletic after losing 30 pounds during the summer.

“I know that I need to be physical and mentally well to do this, and I am committed to it body and soul,” he said. “I believe in discipline, and that transcends to the office and into the team, and this team and organization will be led on the values of integrity, discipline and intelligence.”

City to proceed with arena plans for Sudbury

By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star.

With last week’s news that businessman Dario Zulich has purchased the Sudbury Wolves OHL franchise, there has been some discussion of what this will mean for the Sudbury arena.

Zulich has also pitched to council his plans for an events centre, called the True North Strong Centre, which would include a rink, along The Kingsway, near Mid-North Mitsubishi.

His purchase of the Wolves still has to be approved by the OHL board.

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan took to his Facebook page, Valley East, to raise questions about whether the city should proceed with the request for proposals (RFP) for the arena.

“The Kingsway’s True North Strong sports and entertainment centre is one step closer to reality with the change in ownership of the Sudbury Wolves,” Kirwan wrote. “The announcement of the purchase of the Sudbury Wolves by Dario Zulich, one of the principal partners in the True North Strong sports and entertainment centre, should pretty well put to rest any question about where a major OHL arena should be located. There may not be any need to proceed with an RFP or a consultant’s report if the purchase is approved, as expected, by the league.”

Kirwan said Zulich could choose to operate the facility independently of the city.

“This is likely an option that the company should be seriously considering now that they have ownership of the Sudbury Wolves, the key ingredient in the success of any arena that is going to be built in the city,” Kirwan wrote.

He also said moving the Wolves, as well as other arena events, to The Kingsway locale could free up the current arena for other projects, including the new library and art gallery.

“The True North proposal does not require any significant monetary investment from the city and it provides the current Sudbury Arena to be repurposed for the Art Gallery (of Sudbury) and main library, two of the other large projects that we are hoping to build. The Greater Sudbury Development Corporation actually suggested the Sudbury Arena as being a preferred spot for the art gallery and library since it is downtown and there is plenty of parking available for this duel purpose,” Kirwan wrote.

“So, at the end of the day, Mr. Zulich may have established the foundation for some major growth and development in the city. Now we just have to move forward and make the right decisions.”

But while Kirwan may be questioning the need for an RFP now, the city says it still intends to issue the request for proposals.

“The Sudbury Wolves have a long history in our community, and we continue to be thrilled to have an OHL team in our city,” said Eliza Bennett, the communications manager. “At council’s direction, city staff have been working to define the needs of the community for a potential new arena so that a competitive process can be undertaken. The change in ownership of the Wolves does not change the city’s need to undertake due diligence.”

The city still plans to issue an RFP for the arena, following a $275,000 consultation process that council recently approved.

“There is still some work to do before a competitive process can be undertaken,” Bennett said. “The Wolves will continue to play at the Sudbury Arena, and the city is looking forward to the new season.”

Jeff MacIntyre, chair of Downtown Sudbury, largely mirrored the city’s response. He said his members will continue to advocate for a downtown arena, which is one of three locations that has been identified as a potential home for the new facility.

“It shouldn’t really change much,” MacIntyre said. “We’re still talking about a city-funded project, so for a city-funded project, we should be looking at what’s best for the city. I still argue that would be downtown. “¦ It’ll still have to go through a process and the Wolves would be a tenant in that process, but at the same time, it’s still a public-private partnership, so you need to find out what the best benefit is to the public, not necessarily one of the tenants.”

Public-private partnerships are generally funded through a combination of municipal (or other public) money and private investment.

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, in whose ward the current arena is located, echoed MacIntyre and stood firm that he is less concerned with where the arena goes, than he is in ensuring it is in the best interests of the community.

“As far as a new arena goes, I have long said that I am less concerned with where it will be located at this point in time and more concerned with identifying what is best for the citizens of Greater Sudbury,” Cormier told The Star via email. “At this point, I am not opposed to any of the suggested locations, including, of course, the downtown, but what I am opposed to is making a decision that is not in the best financial interest of the citizens of Greater Sudbury. I will do everything I can to ensure that we conduct the appropriate due diligence as we move forward on this issue.”

Cormier also congratulated Zulich on his acquisition and said he looks forward to attending games, no matter in which arena the Wolves may be playing.

“I look forward to cheering on our hometown team under this new leadership,” he wrote. “I would also like to thank the Burgess and Edwards families for their contributions to our community over the years through their ownership of the Wolves.”

Sudbury Wolves sold — local businessman Zulich to take over on approval from league

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star.

The Sudbury Wolves have entered a new era.

The Ontario Hockey League announced on Friday that the local OHL franchise, owned by the Burgess family since 1986, will be sold to Sudbury businessman Dario Zulich, pending approval of the league’s board of governors.

“Official transfer of ownership is pending league approval and will be addressed at the next scheduled meeting of the Ontario Hockey League board of governors, taking place Aug. 17-18, 2016,” the OHL said in a press release. “The league and the Sudbury Wolves will not be making any further comment on this matter until completion of the board of governors meeting in August.”

Rumours have swirled for months that principal owner Mark Burgess might soon sell the team, and those intensified in recent weeks, but nothing was confirmed prior to the OHL’s announcement.

“I am very pleased to have entered into an agreement with the Burgess and Edwards families on the purchase of the Sudbury Wolves, an organization that is such an important part of our community,” Zulich said in a statement. “Out of respect for the approval process of an ownership transfer within the Ontario Hockey League, which includes a confidentiality clause, I will not comment further on this matter until the league’s board of governors takes action on this in mid-August.”

Reached on Friday afternoon, Burgess said he would comment after the sale is approved.

Terms of the sale or the agreed-upon price have not been revealed.

Zulich is the CEO of TESC Contracting Company and a partner in Zulich Enterprises. He and business partner Perry Dellelce have frequently been in the news during the last several months, as they’re key members of a group hoping to build a replacement for the aging Sudbury Community Arena at a site on the Kingsway.

Joe Drago, a former part-owner and general manager of the Wolves who now serves as chair for Hockey Canada, has voiced support of the arena proposal put forth by a group that includes Zulich, Dellelce and Andrew Dale, dubbed the True North Strong Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Drago welcomed Friday’s news and said the time was right for a change in ownership.

“My reaction is, reading and hearing the cry from the community that they wanted change, that they wanted to see something happen soon, because crowds have been dropping off and interest has been dropping off – even in my travel, I get a lot of questions like what’s wrong with the Wolves, why are things so bad – I think the sale was very wise by the Burgess family,” Drago said.

“What I would like to see is the team turn around and be competitive. In the years that I have been involved in hockey in this community – not just with the Wolves, but all kinds of hockey –this town is very supportive, it’s a hockey community, but they want to see you do down fighting. They want a competitive team and they don’t expect you to win the championship or the Memorial Cup year after year, but they expect you to go out and play with some pride and dignity, to win hockey games and to make the city proud of the team that is representing them.”

Ken Burgess, Mark’s father and a successful local businessman, bought the struggling franchise from a group of owners in November 1986 and helped turn the team’s fortunes around after several losing seasons.

Ken Burgess died in 1998 and Mark became the principal owner. The Burgesses were honoured by the OHL in 2011 for 25 years operating the team.

The Wolves joined the league in 1972 and had several successful seasons, including a run to the final in 1976.

The 1980s were less kind, however, as the Wolves missed the post-season for five straight years between 1980 and 1985. Their 1982-83 season, during which they managed just 30 points, was the poorest in franchise history until 2014-15.

There were serious doubts about the team’s viability before Ken Burgess stepped in and hired Sam McMaster as GM. McMaster helped lead the Wolves back to respectability with six straight post-season berths between 1990 and 1995, including a trip to the conference final.

Another highlight came in 2007 when, with Mike Foligno as coach and GM, the Wolves went on a Cinderella run to the league finals, only to come up short once again.

Sudbury fell on hard times again the past two seasons. The Wolves posted a worst-ever 26-point season in 2014-15, including a record-breaking losing streak, and attendance continued to decline.

They missed the playoffs again in 2015-16, but the emergence of several talented young players helped boost optimism about the coming campaign.

Gord Ewin, one of the Wolves’ first season ticket holders, a former part-owner and executive and current player education director, had heard rumours of a possible sale, but like many was surprised by Friday’s announcement.

“All I want to see is the franchise be here in Sudbury,” Ewin said. “It’s local ownership again, which is great.”

He called the Burgess family “great owners.”

“They did so much for the community,” Ewin said. “They treated players well and anybody connected with the club was treated well. I know I certainly was.”

Asked what makes a good OHL owner, Ewin identified a willingness to work in concert with fellow clubs.

“They have to be good partners, most of all,” Ewin said. “Though the teams are all competitive, they have to do things for the benefit of the league. I’m sure the new owner will be that type of person. They also have to promote the team within the city and you need a winner. Whatever you do, people respond to a winning team and I’m sure the new owners coming in will try and do that and will understand that.”

True North touts ‘world-class’ multi-use venue

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star

Since they first pitched the True North Strong Sports and Entertainment Centre to Greater Sudbury city councillors last fall, Dario Zulich and the other project proponents have been busy making the case for a new arena and events centre on The Kingsway.

What they’re planning is not just a hockey rink, but an events centre that is part of a larger, mixed-use sports, entertainment and convention complex they say will be a cultural focal point and economic driver for the city.

There are other proposals for new sports and entertainment venues, and politicians continue to debate whether a new arena should be located downtown or in another part of the city. But in their meetings with business and community leaders, Zulich and his allies have already secured several high-profile supporters.

Zulich took a moment this week to answer our 10 Questions feature and make his case that the True North Strong Centre is the best choice for Greater Sudbury.

1. What is the True North Strong Sports and Entertainment Centre?

True North Strong will be the best new events centre of its size in the world. While we haven’t suggested a formal name for our proposed events centre, the True North Strong Centre as we refer to it, is a world-class multi-use venue for concerts, sports, family shows, business conferences, community hockey, and other events that will serve as a destination for residents of Greater Sudbury, as well as for visitors from across Ontario and western Quebec. We are a group of Sudburians calling the proposal True North Strong, a title that reflects the passion we have for a project that will tell the world that Greater Sudbury has arrived, while kick-starting the GS2025 vision to drive economic development into the region and inspire our community with a gathering place that will enhance the quality of life for everyone, regardless of their entertainment interests.


2. How has the project changed since it was originally conceived and why?

Since presenting our vision for a new events centre to city council and the mayor last November, we have been holding regular meetings, informal discussions with fellow citizens, and public information sessions across Greater Sudbury. We have also continued to speak with leading industry experts and others who have built similar venues in markets of our size in North America.

Throughout this process we have learned that our community wishes to see, and can support, a regional events centre that will accommodate more than the 6,000 seats we originally proposed. We have learned that our market can sustain a slightly larger venue, so we propose seating of between 7,000 and 8,000 seats, depending on the event.

Also, we know that some of our community ice rinks are outdated and are costly to operate. So we have figured out a way to add two additional ice pads (flex space) to our original plan. This helps meet the demands for ice time by community hockey and skating enthusiasts, increase the multi-purpose functionality of the facility, while at the same time reducing operating costs.


3. Why is this project the right one to replace Sudbury Community Arena?

Our intent is to build a state-of-the-art events centre that is the best of its size in the world. Our site has the space to accommodate that—to provide all the amenities that drive maximum revenues and the best return on investment for Greater Sudbury. It is large enough to allow for the construction of a large “back of house” that is required to attract a diverse offering of shows, sports events, conferences, and special events. In addition to the two community ice pads adjacent to the building, our plan includes a public square that will be a vibrant gathering place for the community.

Our site is the best location to deliver adequate space for public access, including on-site parking for 2,000 vehicles that will feature multiple entry/exit points to ensure smooth and efficient traffic flow in the area on event days. Situated in a prime location in the middle of the growth path for Greater Sudbury, it is the most easily accessed location by the greatest number of area residents. Its central location on the Trans-Canada Highway makes it accessible to touring acts, as well as to out-of-town visitors who will be coming to Greater Sudbury to attend events. Our design has the room for adjacent hotels and other developments that will further boost the local economy and serve the needs of all who visit the centre.

Our vision of building a new regional events centre on the Kingsway, also includes enabling future development of the historic downtown Sudbury in ways that will transform that area of the city to better meet the needs of our changing community in the 21st century. We look forward to being engaged with and participating in the process of creating a vibrant downtown Sudbury and contributing to its success. Given the realities and limitations of downtown, this begins with establishing a new regional events centre at our location, giving the city what we need and want from both an economic and a lifestyle perspective.


4. What kinds of events or entertainment can you see this centre hosting that can’t be hosted here now?

There will be something for everybody at the True North Strong Centre. From family shows, concerts, conferences, and trade shows that have by-passed Greater Sudbury because there isn’t a suitable venue, to the Sudbury Wolves and potentially other sports teams, this will be home to an assortment of approximately 125+ great events a year. As the finest venue of its kind in Canada, this will be a year-around destination for tourism from across Ontario and western Quebec.


5. What is your broader plan for the property on The Kingsway?

The new regional events centre will be the cornerstone of a new sports and entertainment district for Greater Sudbury and Northern Ontario. Our plan is for mixed-use development that incorporates destination type entertainment facilities such as hotels and restaurants, as well as other commercial uses that cater to attracting tourists to our region. The property is large enough to accommodate the flexibility and opportunity to “bolt on” additional sports and entertainment uses. It will be built on a highly visible, 5 lane highway portion of the Kingsway, with existing upgraded infrastructures already in place.

The site is in close proximity to the main regional business hub of commercial retail in Northeastern Ontario, the New Sudbury Centre, as well as the Millennium Centre. With the development of the Innovation Park set to begin as part of the first phase of development, we see the western portion of the property poised and ready to serve as the region’s entertainment magnet to bringing hundreds of thousands of new visitors to our region to the benefit of the businesses throughout the entire city.

In addition to the central plan for a mixed-use development, we have also filed an Expression of Interest with the City of Greater Sudbury for the development of a motorsports park on adjacent lands to the north side of the site just beyond Phase 1 of the Innovation Park. This option expands on the ability to leverage the facilities while increasing the reasons for Greater Sudbury to be the central hub for sports and entertainment for Northeastern Ontario.

Sudbury is the regional centre of Northern Ontario in so many ways. Sudbury is the regional centre for provincial and federal governments, the regional centre for banking and finance, the regional centre for hospitals and healthcare, the regional centre for education (university and colleges), the regional centre for tourism (Science North and Dynamic Earth), the regional centre for business and industry. We are simply proposing a “regional events centre” for sports and entertainment.


6. What will be the longer-term economic impact, not just in that area but in the city as a whole?

The True North Strong Centre will have a substantial economic impact on the community. It will be a revenue centre—not a cost centre. Our proposal provides an increased tax base without increasing taxes to citizens. We are calling on city officials to launch an RFP process during which a detailed economic impact study and market analysis will be conducted of our proposal and any others that may be submitted for consideration. What we know today is that our arena proposal is superior to alternatives because the revenue potential for all events is maximized in a facility of this size that can accommodate a multitude of major events.

Business and restaurant owners large and small, the building trades, community leaders, and individuals from all walks of life are enthusiastically embracing the vision of True North Strong because of the sustained economic impact our events centre will deliver for generations to come. With local builders and tradesmen utilizing local equipment and materials, there will be a significant infusion of money into the local economy during the construction phase and in the years that follow. With 125+ annual events in a first class venue, new part-time and full-time jobs will be created on a permanent basis.


7. What has the reception been like in the community?

Extraordinary and unilaterally supportive, and what some have called a breath of fresh air! For years, the community has been discussing the need to replace the Sudbury Community Arena in order to stop the loss of millions of dollars that goes to other cities because we lack a facility that can attract major events. The True North Strong vision is the first plan to capture widespread support from every sector of our community. That’s because our plan, created for Sudburians by Sudburians, with the support of renowned experts who have built multi-use events centres across North America, ensures sustained revenue for the city, will enhance the livability of our community, and delivers a new centre that opens its doors two years after city officials grant its approvals. The reception has been tremendous, and gets even stronger with every community meeting or event we attend.


8. What kind of partnership do you envision having with the city?

That’s largely up to the city to decide in their request for proposals from the market. We are proposing a public/private partnership, commonly known as a P3. A P3 minimizes the costs and risk to the city because the True North Strong partnership will design, build, maintain, and operate the events centre, and then after a period of years transfer operation of the centre to the next operator – this could be any number of groups including the city. Ownership of the centre has always been envisioned to remain a city asset. Together, we will also pursue the funds that the senior government levels are earmarking for major infrastructure projects such as this. More than 236 projects across Canada, including the biosolids management facility in Greater Sudbury, have been made possible through an effective public/private partnership.


9. What will the project cost, what will the cost be to taxpayers, and why would it be a better deal than a city-built facility?

No one supports the idea of raising taxes to finance a new arena – nor do we. A city-built and operated facility would almost certainly require doing so. That would be a bad idea for the city and for taxpayers, and we have yet to hear anyone champion that approach.

The True North Strong plan does not require that new tax dollars be generated from taxpayers. The city’s contribution would be determined through the formulation of a final public/private partnership – but it will not cost the taxpayer an incremental tax dollar.

We recently expanded our seating configuration from 6,000 seats to 7-8,000 seats, and added two community ice pads to our plan. The cost of our original plan before those amendments was approximately $60 million, but we have developed a plan with revised cost projections that may be just slightly higher, if at all. A more specific figure would be presented in an RFP process once initiated by the city.


10. Some have called for an arena or event centre to be built downtown. How is your location better than downtown or elsewhere?

Our site allows for the city to build the best regional events centre possible! Building a regional events centre similar to the one we propose in the old downtown is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The right size of regional events centre for our city simply cannot fit downtown. This is especially true if you include the ensuing developments that will bolt onto this project (motorsports park, soccer bubbles, hotels, restaurants, and other recreation and entertainment venues).

Building a new events centre on a confined downtown site forces a downgrade of amenities and possibilities, substantially reducing revenue potential for the community and severely limiting the opportunity for many entertainment and business events. A downtown site cannot achieve the goal of being able to compete with other cities of our size to attract the quality and volume of concerts, family shows, and business events that will maximize the economic opportunities for Greater Sudbury. Our location is large enough, and flexible enough, to maximize the potential economic benefit of a new events centre.

Building downtown involves needless high costs (including but not limited to parking structures and upgrades to ancient infrastructure) and presents a multitude of complexities including land assembly and scheduling. It has been estimated that attempting to build at a downtown location could take as many as five years before a new arena is open. From an economic standpoint, Greater Sudbury cannot afford to miss out on millions of dollars in revenue, only to build a smaller, compromised facility downtown. The proposed site of the True North Strong Centre is zoned and ready for development now. The True North Strong Centre can be open within two years of the commencement of construction.

Our location is in the middle of the growth path for Greater Sudbury and is the most easily accessed site by the greatest number of area residents. It has room for adjacent hotels, restaurants and business development, as well as parking for 2,000 vehicles and easy ingress/egress. We are envisioning not just a new multi-use events centre and a public square, but our goal is to create a destination for sports and entertainment that will bring recognition and distinction to all of Greater Sudbury from across Canada. That is not possible at a downtown location.

Finally, by locating a new events centre at our more suitable site, we open up and encourage the development of downtown Sudbury in exciting new ways that will reinvigorate downtown and make it the destination for cultural, arts, business, and residential offerings that others in the community are advocating. We believe in Greater Sudbury. We believe Greater Sudbury can and should have a vibrant downtown core like we see in similar size cities across Canada. We believe Greater Sudbury should also have a world class Regional Events Centre.

True North Strong expands vision for Sudbury centre

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.”

True North Strong expands on original plan for an arena and events centre

by: Jonathan Migneault.

The group behind a proposed arena and multi-purpose events centre on the Kingsway, that would replace the Sudbury Arena, has expanded on its original proposal to the city.

In November  2015 a group of local investors and developers called True North Strong proposed plans for a $60-million arena and events centre to be build on a 170-acre property in the Jack Nicholas Business and Innovation Park along the Kingsway.

True North Strong partners Dario Zulich and Andrew Dale announced Monday their revised plan would accommodate between 7,000 and 8,000 seats, and would include two additional ice pads to help replace some of the city’s aging infrastructure.

“We all know the city needs high quality ice pads for community use,” said Zulich. “Our location for a new events centre offers the space for a 7,000-plus seat bowl and two additional ice pads for the community, something other potential locations cannot accommodate.”

True North Strong originally proposed the project would cost around $60 million, but with the recent additions that cost will increase, said Zulich.

But he added the greater scale also comes with efficiencies. It is cheaper to operate two ice pads connected to the same facility, for example, than two separate ice pads, he said.

The business plan the group presented in November 2015 called for a public-private partnership.

Local taxpayers wouldn’t have to provide money up front, instead the city would 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 in 2014.

Former Sudbury Mayor Jim Gordon has lent his support to the plan, which he said would help Sudbury compete for major entertainers it misses out on due to the aging Sudbury Arena.

Gordon said the current Sudbury Arena could be re-purposed to better serve the city’s downtown.

“There’s no reason not to keep that building and reposition it,” he said.

With “a little imagination” the building could host a new art gallery, indoor farmer’s market, art gallery, or another public space, Gordon said.

Last November a partnership between McCor Management and Dalron Construction proposed a plan for a $70-million arena in Sudbury’s south end that would host 6,500 people for hockey games, and 7,500 attendees for other events.

The proposal included 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.

The city has not yet issued a request for proposals for a new arena and events centre.

True North pleased arena project a priorityONEPLAN

By Star Staff.

The True North Strong Centre project was one of four projects city council voted to prioritize during a meeting last week.

This means the vision for a new multi-use sports, entertainment and business centre will receive priority assessment in the weeks ahead to determine its viability, economic impact and contribution to quality of life, True North Strong Centre officials say.

“We are very pleased that city council and the mayor have elected to move forward in considering our proposal among those best suited to provide significant economic stimulus and have a lasting impact on quality of life for Greater Sudbury,” Dario Zulich said in a release.

Zulich is working with fellow Sudbury business leaders Perry Dellelce and Andrew Dale in the True North Strong group.

“Since proposing a world class events centre last November, we have been asking for an open and transparent RFP process to begin through which the best vision for a new events centre would be realized for our entire community,” Zulich added. “Timing is critical for a project of this nature, and the best opportunity for Greater Sudbury to build a new multi-purpose venue is now.

“We are eager to work with city officials as they begin to seek additional information about our project and conduct a thorough analysis of the economic impact and the significant potential that a sports, entertainment and business centre can deliver to our region.”

True North Strong says its plan offers the best state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue at the lowest cost, on a site in the centre of Greater Sudbury and in the growth path for the region along the Kingsway.

The building site is already zoned for construction, which means the new centre could be open two years after receiving construction approval.

For more about True North Strong, visit

Councillors get behind four ‘transformational’ projects

by Darren MacDonald.

City council has identified four “transformational” projects it wants to make a priority this term.

Meeting on Tuesday, councillors selected an arena/events centre, a new art gallery and main library, the Place des art and the Synergy Centre among a total of 16 big projects community groups pitched at a special session in November.

“We’re living in the hub of Northern Ontario,” Mayor Brian Bigger said at the outset of the meeting. “It’s time to invest in our community.”

With that, councillors broke into two groups to examine the 16 proposals in more depth. Each voted on five projects, and both groups picked the four that made the final priority list. One group also picked a light rail transit project, while the other picked the arts junction project.

While picking the top four, Bigger said that doesn’t mean staff and council won’t get behind other projects. But staff will offer a deeper analysis of the four projects and will bring back a report on how to move them forward.

“So this is not the end for projects that were not prioritized in the top four,” Bigger said.

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier said the goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to get the list down to a manageable size so the city can do an in-depth analysis of each.

“We have a very clear direction we can give staff,” Cormier said.

Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo said it’s a perfect time to build some of the big projects in Sudbury because the federal and provincial governments want to work with cities to build infrastructure projects, and have set aside billions to support them.

“For the last 8-10 years, there’s been no partnership on that front,” Jakubo said.

But he warned that this was just the first step in a long road in making the projects a reality.

“It really is just the beginning.”

Ward 10 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann encouraged her colleagues to keep the big picture in mind. She said there was a lot of opposition to Science North when it was proposed decades ago. The city was reeling from mining layoffs and many people opposed spending so much money on a science centre.

“But if we hadn’t built it, where would we be now?” Landry-Altmann said. “That’s what we have to think about – where do we want the city to be in 20 and 30 and 40 years from now?”

There will be opposition to whatever they decide to do, she said, and councillors will have to stay focused and determined to be successful.

“Remain brave and remain courageous because we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions.”

A look at the projects:

— Synergy centre: $65 million multi-use performing arts/meeting centre that would be built downtown. Using technology developed in Europe, it would transform into a number of configurations depending on the event.

— Place des arts: The $29.4 million project would be a five-storey facility that includes a great hall that would seat 300; a gallery; a community arts workshop; and a multi-use studio could host musical performances and dance recitals.

— Arena/events centre: Would replace Sudbury Arena, and would include hotel, convention and entertainment facility. Costs range from $60 million for a location on The Kingsway, to $74 million for a location in the South End.

— New main library/art gallery: would replace existing facilities in Sudbury, separately they would cost $27 million (art gallery) and $20 million (library) but the groups are now working together.

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.

New arena for Sudbury steals the show

By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star

In this corner, an events centre by Zulich. And in this corner, an arena by Dalron.

The two projects were the stars of Tuesday’s council meeting, at which Ian Wood, the city’s director of economic development, laid out the details of 16 large projects that council is considering supporting.

Calling the True North Strong Centre, which would be located along The Kingsway, a “once in a generation” opportunity, the $60 million project that includes at least one ice pad would seek “active participation” from the city, though a financial commitment was not defined.

Should council support this project, Wood suggested they form a working group, hire a consultant and identify other funding sources.

A second arena, proposed by Dalron for the south end with a price tag of $74 million, sought money from council, as well at $1.5 million annually in operating costs.

They were pitched with the idea that Sudbury will be home to a casino at some point.

“Both developments identify the potential for other complementary uses such as hotels, retail establishments, restaurants, etc. Both of these projects also provide an opportunity to develop a coherent vision for development in the surrounding area and should be seen as a catalyst to accelerate the achievement of such a vision,” a staff report indicated. “Future proposals for a new casino in Sudbury will likely include conference and performance facilities as ancillary to the casino. Potential bidders for a new casino have also indicated an interest in partnering in the development of a new sports and entertainment facility, if located in the immediate vicinity of the casino.”

The Art Gallery of Sudbury was also discussed on Tuesday. It is seeking a downtown location, having expressed concerns about their current space and their ability to protect their collection. Wood said the relocation of the gallery to a downtown location could result in seven to nine full-time jobs, as well as several temporary posts during the construction or renovation phase. Wood also said his staff has encouraged the art gallery to partner with the city’s main library branch.

Wood said the Place des Arts – an arts centre that would be located downtown – is at the most advanced stages of development; however, he pointed out problems with parking and finding new spaces, as the land the group would like to use for the centre is currently a parking lot.

“These projects are large and have the potential to change the fabric and economics of our community,” Wood said. “Some would be twice the size of the Laurentian school of architecture. “¦ Like Maley Drive, they have the potential to be city building projects – the opportunity to open up and revitalize different areas of the community. Unlike Maley Drive, many of these projects are more nuanced and complex than a roads engineering project.”

Other projects include an assisted living centre in Capreol, the Cedar Street parking structure, the artsjuncion creative live/work space, a film studio, housing for those with acquired brain injuries, the redevelopment of the Minnow Lake legion on Weller Street and a rail system to Espanola.

No decisions were made Tuesday. That process will not begin until April 26, when council holds a prioritization meeting at which they will begin to discuss in earnest the merits of each project.

But there seemed to be some trouble with the upcoming meeting. Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan expressed concern that councillors meeting in small groups, out of earshot, is akin to an in-camera meeting.

But Mike Jakubo came to the meeting’s defense and said many of the projects will help support Sudbury’s bottom line.

“I know we’re all very eager around this table to make some decisions “¦ but we do have a process we’ve identified to prioritize them,” the Ward 7 councillor said, advocating for the April 26 meeting. “It’ll provide us with an opportunity to move forward.”

Trades council backs Sudbury arena plan

By Sudbury Star Staff,

A plan for a $50-million multi-purpose event centre in Sudbury has earned the endorsement of the Northeastern Ontario Building and Construction Trades Council.

The True North Strong group, which is proposing an arena and arts complex on The Kingsway, made a presentation to the building council earlier this month.

Project proponents Dario Zulich and Andrew Dale “highlighted the economic and social benefits of the project,” the council said in a release.

The trades council “welcomes economic investment that will create numerous jobs and encourage additional investment and commercial growth in the community, particularly during challenging economic conditions,” according to True North Strong.

The group’s vision for an event centre “is an example of a great opportunity for the City of Greater Sudbury to reinvest in much-needed social infrastructure at a time when the region is facing many challenges,” said Tom Cardinal, Northern Ontario area manager of the Carpenters District Council of Ontario Local 2486 and president of the northeastern trades council.

“The local job creation that will result from this type of project will put our members back to work in this difficult time of mining cycle realities and rising unemployment,” Cardinal said. “Additionally, it will further enhance the arts and culture aspect of the community, which help shape the quality of life of all residents.”

The event centre proposal is one of many potential development projects that were presented to city council in November at a public input and information session for large projects.

A new event centre has been the focus of much discussion in recent years, as Sudbury Community Arena, built in 1951, is deteriorating and can’t accommodate the range of entertainment, sports and business events that are taking place in other Ontario communities of similar size.

“We are extremely pleased and grateful for the overwhelming support we received from the (trades) council,” Zulich said in a statement. “Their endorsement reinforces that the timing is right to move forward with a project like this.”

The trades council represents about 5,000 workers and more than 15,000 family members in Sudbury and northeastern Ontario.

The True North Strong team, led by Zulich, Perry Dellelce and Dale, is proposing a public-private partnership to create an event centre on land that is already zoned for development on The Kingsway.

City council has not made any decisions on whether it will build a new arena and, if so, how it will be done.

P3 projects can save money, minimize risk, councillors told

By: Darren MacDonald – Sudbury Northern Life.

City gets an overview of public/private partnerships ahead of deciding on big projects

With city council getting ready to decide whether to proceed with a number of big projects, they will also have to decide how they will build any project.

On Tuesday, Mark Romoff, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, gave councillors an overview of P3s – public/private partnerships the federal government has been especially vocal in supporting in recent years.

Contrary to what many people think, Romoff said P3s are not primarily a way to finance big projects.

Rather, they offer municipalities a way to accomplish a big project that minimizes risk and costs.

A local example is the $63 million biosolids plant that opened on Kelly Lake Road in 2013, on time and on budget.

“P3s are not a panacea,” Romoff said Tuesday. “But when done for the right reasons, they have produced wonderful results.”

In the case of the biosolids plant, it was built and is being run by a private sector company for the next 20 years. In return, the city provides a guaranteed payment to the company, as long as the company does the necessary work to maintain the facility.

The city assumes full ownership of the plant at the end of the contact. Romoff said the Sudbury example is fairly typical of how such agreements work.

“The private sector accepts responsibility for design, construction, financing, maintenance and, in some cases, operations,” he said. “Payment from government only begins upon completion of construction (and) ongoing payments remain subject to deduction for failures in service delivery.”

In the 22-year history of P3s in Canada, he said 236 projects worth $93.9 billion have been completed.

That translates into 290,000 direct jobs over the last 10 years alone, worth $25 billion to the economy, savings of $9 billion to governent and generated tax revenue of $7 billion.

“This has been a very strong outcome,” Romoff said. “We are receiving delegations from around the world to look at the Canadian model.”

Federal and provincial agencies have been set up to oversee P3 projects, groups that have had a major impact on their success. Minimizing risk and ensuring there are no surprises in the process has been key, he said.

“(Governments want) guarantees you’ll get your project delivered on time and on budget,” he said.

Because of their size and the fact the process is so transparent, he said companies around the world bid on P3s, helping to ensure governments get the best possible price.

While public sector unions don’t like P3s, Romoff said they all respect collective bargaining agreements. And they are popular with private-sector unions.

“We have enough of them in Canada to do some quality analysis,” he said. “The results were very strong.”

Not all on council were convinced, however. Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti said he’s worried that P3s allow the private sector to make money with public assest, and then just walk away from them at the end of the contract.

“I’m not a big fan of P3s,” Signoretti said.

But Romoff said the private sector must adhere to the terms of the contract, which includes doing proper maintenance of the facility.

Usually about five years before a contract ends, government will do an assessment of the facility to ensure the work has been done, and can withold payments as compensation if it hasn’t.

“When you factor in the long-term maintenance, P3 projects come out to be cheaper,” he said. “I don’t know anyone in the business community who does not want to make a profit … So if it doesn’t work for both parties, it’s a mistake.”

That’s why it’s so important to do the work up front in the contract language to ensure everyone knows what to expect, Romoff said.

Ward 6 Coun. René Lapierre wanted to know what would happen if, for example, the city built an arena and events centre under the P3 model. Would exisiting workers lose their jobs?

“We already have all our arena people,” Lapierre said.

Romoff said employees are given the option to either stay with public sector, or to work for the private-sector operator under the same pay and working conditions.

In response to another question, he said it’s possible for government to share revenue in a P3 agreement. For example, a new toll highway is being built and government and the private are sharing the revenue.

“What kind of dollar range have these projects been?” asked Mayor Brian Bigger.

Romoff said the smallest he’s seen is around $35 million, while most come in around $50 million-$75 million range or larger.

“The key is to get good, sound advice before you move ahead,” Romoff added.

City council is expected to get a report on big projects proposed for the city in April. 

True North Strong arena/event centre vision expanded

by Randy Pascal

A new event centre/arena/entertainment complex at the eastern end of the Kingsway may or may not become reality, but give the True North Strong Sports, Entertainment & Business Centre group credit. They have taken a great deal of care formulating a proposal that at least attempts to deal with the usual concerns of average Sudburians.

With plenty of public backlash over the capital expenditure that the City of Greater Sudbury was envisioning at the time of the multi-use recreation facilities (dubbed the John Rodriguez Legacy Projects) a few years back, presenting a grand project that does not involve any increase of taxpayers dollars will catch the attention of even the “anti-arena” faction.

“Our plan will be a revenue centre for the City, not a cost centre,” noted partner Dario Zulich in a media release at the time of the council presentation in late November. “Our events centre will deliver an increased tax base, with no net tax increase to our fellow citizens.”

Zulich, owner of TESC Contracting, has partnered with St Charles College graduate Perry Dellelce (managing partner of Wildeboer Dellelce LLP in Toronto), former Sudbury Wolves NHL signee Andrew Dale, and former president of MSLE (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) Tom Anselmi to form True North Strong concept.

One of two proposals presented to council, their version is a call for a $60 million multi-use event centre project, seating 6000+ fans, that will host upwards of 125 events a year, including OHL hockey, as the new home of the Sudbury Wolves.

“We see this project unfolding as a “P3″ (Public-Private Partnership) project, where you’re leveraging the skills and core capabilities of each partner,” explained Dale.

“There is shared risk, transference of risk, both on the construction end, and also the operations. This will become a profit centre for the City. In its current role, the City runs arenas, and the Sudbury Community Arena, as cost centres.”

“This project will grow the community, becoming that capital of Northern Ontario, that central place for tourism, especially for sports and entertainment.” Given the fact that the group already owns the land in question (situated directly next to Mitsubishi/Mid-North Motors, and more or less across from Tim Horton’s on Levesque Street), and that much of the financing legwork has already been completed, there would appear to be some immediate legitimacy to the proposal.

And while some might suggest that the downtown core must be home to any new construction of a primary arena for Sudbury, True North Strong believes that a fairly simple comparison of pros and cons weighs heavily in their favour for the benefit of all.

“We are an advocate of our downtown, and we want to see the downtown grow in new, creative and innovative ways,” acknowledged Dale. “Our location provides the maximum benefit because there are no compromises, and therefore revenues can be maximized.”

“With ample space, proper zoning, we are development ready, and yet there is flexibility in terms of what sport and hospitality amenities could be included in the project.”

In fact, the entire project was born from an RFP (request for proposal) that the City had sought a couple of years ago (Fall 2013), when looking to determine which direction to take with regards to the current situation at the Sudbury Community Arena, a building on which construction was completed in 1951.

“They (the City) asked for an OHL arena proposal in 2013,” said Dale. “The market needs more than an OHL arena. The market needs an Event Centre, that is multi-purpose, that is flexible, scalable, that meets the entertainment needs of Northern Ontario, and includes the ability to host OHL hockey.”

Dale and his group are convinced that the vision could become a reality within two years. “Our thought is that if the project moves through a process of knowing what the City wants, and what it will look like, shovels can be in the ground in 2016, which allows us to open the doors in 2018.”

“For this vision to become a reality, a couple of things have to happen,” continued Dale. “First of all, it’s got to get council buy-in. It’s a council decision, because the City would be a partner.”

“We didn’t ask for any new money. We asked for a transparent process to get started that will look at all options.”

Surprise motion on downtown arena draws harsh words

By: Darren MacDonald – Sudbury Northern Life | Dec 16, 2015.

Motion would have had staff prepare plan to compete with private-sector proposals presented in November

An attempt to have city staff prepare a report on building a downtown events centre – including a new arena – was narrowly defeated Tuesday night amid some harsh words.

The motion by Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti came at the end of the meeting and wasn’t on the agenda. That meant councillors had to waive the normal notice of motion so it could be dealt with last night.

Signoretti said the pre-feasibility study would give council an idea of how to compare an events centre in the city core with the two private-sector proposals presented at a public meeting in late November.

Two plans – one for the South End, the other for an area on the eastern part of The Kingsway — were detailed at the meeting, and members of the Greater Sudbury Development Corp. are scheduled to report back on those and other big project proposals presented in November.

“I’d like to explore the idea of an events centre downtown,” Signoretti said, of his motion. “Just so we have apples to apples and a level playing field.

“We can’t wait until the GSDC comes back with their findings … if we’re going to do something this term … Our downtown needs a voice, and I want to be that voice. We should at least explore this option.”

Ward 11 Coun. Lynne Reynolds tried to amend the motion to include an RFP for the arenas. She didn’t like the idea staff was being asked to come up with a downtown plan that would compete with the private-sector plans.

“I have to ask my fellow councillors a really important question – is there an element of conflict in having our same staff that is evaluating competing proposals and have access to private and sensitive financial information, is it proper for them to be preparing a third option for the city that is going to be just and transparent?” Reynolds asked.

“Let’s get everything on the table – the two proposals that we got, any other proposals that would come in through an RFP process … as well as the downtown proposal that Mr. Signoretti is asking for … We could do all of this by the end of June.”

Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh supported Signoretti’s motion, saying she was concerned about the economic impact on downtown if the new arena were built elsewhere.

“If we pull the arena out of the downtown, what will be the impact on the businesses that are currently there,” she said. “We need to know that information.”

But other councillors were unwilling to spend money on a costly pre-feasibility study before they have even decided whether a new events centre and arena are a priority.

Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier wondered how council, after asking private sector to come forward with proposals, could ask staff to prepare a competing proposal.

“And we haven’t had a full and frank discussion about whether we want this facility,” Cormier said. “As a group we will decide what our priorities are, not just one or two of us jamming motions into the machine to determine and dictate those priorities. I’m offended by that. Gravely offended by that. And I think the people of Sudbury should be offended.

“(This motion) would cost taxpayers a lot of money, before we’ve even decided if this is what we want to do.”

And if council decides to proceed, whatever decision they make has to include a careful evaluation process.

“At the end of the day, it has to make the most sense for the most number of people we represent regardless of where they live in this great city,” he said.

“Let’s see the results of the private proposals presented to us,” agreed Ward 4 Coun. Evelyn Dutrisac. “Before we decide what we’re doing, let’s listen to all the facts … I think this is too fast.”

In the end, the motion was lost by a 6-6 vote, since tie votes are lost votes under the rules of procedure. Mayor Brian Bigger was absent Tuesday.

Debate over new arena for Sudbury heated

By Mary Katherine Keown, The Sudbury Star.

A late addition to Tuesday’s council meeting very nearly got the puck rolling on a new arena for the Nickel City, but was ultimately derailed by a lengthy debate that was heated at times.

Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti introduced a motion near the end of the meeting seeking a feasibility study on an arena and event centre in the city core.

“I’d like to explore the idea of an event centre downtown and give direction to staff to come back to us at the same time they’re coming back on the large projects, just so we can compare apples to apples and have a level playing field,” he explained.

While councillors were excited to talk arenas – and muse over the possibilities – some were perplexed by the idea of a city-funded study.

While she was generally in favour of the motion, Ward 11 Coun. Lynne Reynolds cited several concerns, including some of the language in its preamble and the implication that council favoured a downtown location.

“Is there an element of conflict in having our same staff who is evaluating competing proposals, with access to sensitive and private information, is it proper for them to be preparing a third option for the city that will be just and transparent? We are in essence asking the actual evaluators to prepare a competing proposal. It really implies to me a conflict of interest,” she wondered.

Two groups – one led by Dario Zulich and Perry Dellelce, and another by Dalron Group Limited – pitched their big ideas to city council on Nov. 27 for new events centres.

Dalron favoured a south end location, while the Zulich team proposed a $60-million, 6,000-seat event centre on The Kingsway. It would be a public-private partnership split 75/25 between the developers and the city, but Zulich and his team said the new centre would cost taxpayers nothing. The city would provide the security and borrowing power behind the project rather than capital investment, and would own the venue.

The Dalron project would include seating for 6,500 for sporting events and 7,500 for entertainment events. While its construction and operation would cost the city nothing, user fees would be imposed to recoup expenses and maintain operations.

Reynolds went on to introduce an amending motion that incorporated Signoretti’s idea, and included the aforementioned projects, as well as any others that could be brought forward, into an over-arching request for proposals.

“We could do all of this by the end of June,” she predicted. “Let’s go to the RFP proposal now. There’s no reason to delay it.”

Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, however, said he could not understand how the city could respond to its own RFP, while Michael Vagnini, the councillor for Ward 2, wanted to know how much the process would cost taxpayers.

Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer was enthusiastic about the motions brought forth by his colleagues, noting he wants more information on the ideal location for an events centre, its impact on economic development and its costs.

“I do want to see what impact an event centre will have, whether it’s downtown, along the Highway 17 East corridor or in the south end of the city,” he said. “If the economic development department can tell us what will be the best bang for our buck is by placing it downtown … then that’s where I want to go.”

But Vagnini remained unconvinced. The city’s current infrastructure needs are so grave, he argued, that council might wish to concentrate its efforts on those foundations.

Ed Stankiewicz, the city’s acting chief financial officer, told reporters on Dec. 8 that to fully address the infrastructure gap, city hall would require significantly more than $1 billion in funding, including $700 million for roads and $345 million for water-wastewater infrastructure.

“Before we add a swimming pool and deck on our house, should we not fix the leaky roof or the cracked basement,” Vagnini commented.

Fern Cormier, the representative for Ward 10, countered Signoretti, commenting that his apples-to-apples approach was erroneous.

“You’re talking private versus public sector and they’re diametrically opposed,” he said. “I don’t feel we should move forward with this motion. … After we ask the private sector to come forward (on Nov. 27 at the large-projects meeting), we bring forward a motion that hits the nail on the head and I’m sure from their position looks like we’re competing. I have a bit of a problem from that point of view.”

Cormier also noted council has yet to fully discuss and debate whether or not they wish to move forward on an events centre.

After a near hour-long debate, councillors defeated Joscelyne Landry-Altmann’s suggestion to defer to the end of January, as well as Signoretti’s motion and Reynolds’ amended proposal.

New arena proposals pitched to Sudbury councillors

By Bruce Heidman, Sudbury Star

Downtown is out for the location of a new main arena for Greater Sudbury, if either of the two groups who made presentations to the city is eventually retained to build a new event centre.

Two groups – True North Strong, led by local business partners Dario Zulich and Perry Dellelce, and another by Dalron Group Limited with International Coliseums Company – made presentations during Friday’s Public Input and Information Session for Large Projects held in front of city council at city hall.

True North Strong, which also has project manager and former Sudbury Wolves player Andrew Dale and former Maple Leafs Entertainment president Tom Anselmi on board, proposed a $60-million, 6,000-seat event centre that anchors a large complex located on the Kingsway, a mile east from the corner of Kingsway and Falconbridge Road beside Mid North Motors on property owned by Zulich and Dellelce that would be a public-private enterprise the developers said would cost taxpayers nothing, with the city a 25% partner, but privately run.

“Our vision is for the best, most cost-effective, multi-use centre in Canada,” Zulich said. “Our plan will be a revenue centre for the city, not a cost centre. Our events centre will deliver an increased tax base with no net tax increase to our fellow citizens.

“This is not an arena, but an event centre that will touch the lives of everyone in Sudbury,” he told city council. “Many events pass through Sudbury without stopping because we don’t have a venue to accommodate them … that’s a shame and it shouldn’t happen anymore.”

The group proposed a public-private partnership it said will enable to plan to come to fruition as soon as possible. The city will provide the security and borrowing power behind the project rather than capital investment and the city would own the venue.

“We are not asking for money, we are just asking for council to make this a priority and commence the process,” Zulich said.

Zulich said the location makes sense.

“I think this project is in the downtown, the downtown of Greater Sudbury,” he said. “It is truly minutes away from the economic hub of the city, which is Costco, so it is downtown and that is why it works.

“Having it on the Kingsway also offers access to the Trans Canada highway and access to the airport, and those are important elements to consider in the location as well,” Dellelce added.

Anselmi, who was integral in the building of the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and BMO Field, said a new events centre will bring Sudbury up to speed with other mid-sized cities in Canada, and the True North group includes the companies that helped build the aforementioned venues.

“It speaks volumes that HOK, KPMG and PMX are part of the True North project team,” he said. “HOK and PMX are the best in designing and building multi-use facilities and will ensure that Sudbury’s new events centre is second to none.”

The other proposal was made by ICC representative Fabio Fiumana. ICC built and operates 13 other arenas throughout North America. ICC proposed a fully privately site that seats 6,500 for sporting events and 7,500 for entertainment events and would be located on in the south end of the city at Regent Street and Remington Road on 60 acres of land already owned by Dalron. ICC would build and operate the facility.

“I think where we excel is that we have 13 of these properties in our portfolio, three of them in Canada, and we have the experience,” Fiumana said. “We’re not talking about doing something, we have done it. We can deal with issues, we can deal with financing and a number of things that will stymie someone who has not done this before.”

Fiumana said four sites across the city were considered.

“We found the south end is a better site,” he said. “We know a lot of people will come from out of town, especially with OHL games, and they need proximity to the highway and they need to know how to get there and they need a place to park.”

A new build downtown doesn’t make sense, he said.

“It could be done downtown, but what are you going to do with the Wolves while you build it?” he said. “Secondly, the current arena can be repurposed for community use very effectively. If there were land downtown you could build it, and what about the what about hotel and the retail?”

While the construction and operation of the ICC proposal would cost the city nothing, “the participation that will be sought from the city will be user fees,” Fiumana said.

Both proposals feature space on site for more development of an extra sports facility, be it for extra ice pads or indoor soccer fields, as well as retail, restaurant, hotel and office space.

Both arena presentations came from request for information and are not binding. More developers could come forward should the city move forward on the arena by making a request for proposals.

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.