After five years of negotiations, planning, delays, and controversies, Sudbury city council has unanimously voted to reject a proposed $215-million budget for an arena and event centre, along with a hotel and casino, at the Kingsway Entertainment District, effectively ending the city’s involvement with the project.
CBC News reports that the council voted on July 12 after a report from city staff in which the budget for the project more than doubled from its original $100 million estimate in 2017.
The Kingsway Entertainment District could still continue as a private venture but the city will no longer be playing any part.
Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger said he believes the vote was a positive for the city’s future.
“We had a significant change in information that we were provided by staff just within the last few weeks,” he said, per CBC. “And I think there was clearly a consensus on council that we’re not willing to take on new additional debt. The price tag of roughly $215 million, that was provided as an estimate, was just too much.”
Bigger said the city would have had to borrow an additional $115 million to cover the project, at an interest rate of more than five per cent, and that approving the project would have meant a two per cent increase in municipal taxes for the next 30 years.
Had the project continued beyond this stage, the city would have been required to spend around another $3 million to finalize the design and final budget for the arena. Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan proposed an amendment that would have advanced the project to that stage with a caveat the city would not spend more than $150 million on the arena and event centre, but the amendment was voted down 10 to two.
The project’s private partners, including Genesis Hospitality Management (hotel), Gateway Casinos (casino), and developer Dario Zulich recently said they remained on board with the project, reports sudbury.com, but it remains to be seen where they stand following today’s decision of city council.
In December, work on the development had been paused prior to the site grading stage at the request of Gateway, but the casino company quickly reiterated it remained on board with the casino project.
Jeff MacIntyre, a past chair of the Sudbury Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA), said he was happy with the outcome from council. He added that his issue was with the use of public money to develop the site, and stressed that he has no issue if Gateway and Genesis want to still go ahead and build a casino and hotel, respectively, at the Kingsway Entertainment District.