St. Catharines approves new spectator facility

St. Catharines approves new spectator facility

St. Catharines city council approved a $50 million, 4,500 - 5,300 seat sports and entertainment centre by a 9-3 vote Monday night at city hall.

The night started off with several public presenters speaking to the arena issue. Twelve speakers in total took to the podium to argue their case to council.

Following the presenters, council then debated the merits of building a new spectator facility.

Last Monday, council was provided with a city staff report that recommended the city approve a $52.5 million, 5,000 seat facility in addition to a $10.6 million, 700 seat arena.

However, several councillors balk at the idea of spending $63.1 million.

But on Monday night, Councillor Jeff Burch introduced the concept of building a U shaped facility as opposed to the traditional bowl type seating. The design would allow for seating on both sides and one end.

The U shape design would make the facility more multi-purpose and would utilize all of the seats for events where a stage is placed at one end of the arena.

The facility would seat 4,500 for hockey with the ability to add temporary seating to increase the capacity to 5,300 for major events, such as a memorial cup hockey game.

For concerts and other events that allow for floor seating, the capacity of the facility would be increased to 7,000.

The new design is also more cost effective with an estimated price tag of $45 million.

The motion to approve the design and construction of a multi-use, 4,500—5,300 seat spectator facility also contained 12 other parts, thanks in part to a number of friendly amendments that were added to the motion.

Included in the motion were the following conditions:

- That council direct staff to consult with ice user representatives and report on a long-term strategy to manage, maintain, replace and consolidate the city's remaining ice pad inventory.

- That council direct staff to negotiate licences or leases with the Niagara IceDogs, the St. Catharines Jr. B Falcons and Brock University that are acceptable to the city of St. Catharines.

- That council approve the inclusion of a maximum of $50 million in the 2012 capital budget with sources of funding of $17 million from the civic project fund, $5 million from fundraising and naming rights, and $1 million from the federal gas tax fund.

- That council direct staff to pursue funding from senior levels of government for remediation and construction costs.

- That council direct staff to issue a Request for Proposals to engage a P3 consultant.

- That any site remediation is included in the RFP, and that remediation costs be within the $50-million limit.

- That the RFP be written in such a way that firms are made aware of the city's sustainability strategy and environmental purchasing practices and that they be asked to explain how they intend to utilize local labour and local skilled trades.

- That staff investigate functional synergies, as outlined by Brock University president Jack Lightstone in his letter to council dated Nov. 30 between the city and Brock University, to tie together the St. Catharines performing arts centre, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts and the spectator facility projects.

- That during lease negotiations staff be directed to investigate the possibility of renaming the OHL franchise to the St. Catharines IceDogs.

- That all proceeds derived from any sale of the Garden City Complex and any other surplus land be paid back into the civic project fund.

- That immediately a fundraising committee be formed composed of councillors, city staff, arena advocacy group members and the community at large and that fundraising activities will commence within three months and that the fundraising target of $5 million be realized prior to construction completion.

- That a minimum of two members of council be appointed to attend regularly, quarterly construction meetings to act as liaison between on-site construction and city council.

The motion did not mention a site for the facility although the lower level lot behind St. Paul Steet remains the preferred location.

Council’s approval now allows for the city to issue a Request for Proposals to design and construct the facility.

Once the tenders have been received, council will then be required to approve the winning bid. While it is expected that council will choose a winning bid and proceed with the construction of a new spectator facility, council could decide to stop the process if the bids come in higher than the $50 million approved cost.

Voting in favour of the proposal was councillors Burch, Matt Siscoe, Bill Phillips, Mark Elliot, Peter Secord, Matt Harris, Jennie Stevens, Len Stack and Mayor Brian McMullan.

Voting against the proposal was councillors Bruce Williamson, Joe Kushner and Greg Washuta.

Councillor Dawn Dodge declared a conflict of interest as she has a family member employed by the IceDogs. 

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