While I support new positive investment in the revitalization and progress of our city, this project raised many concerns for me that were not addressed and had the potential to be a drain on our city through an unsustainable operating subsidy. As well, the consortium that was to run the Centre would have not shared in any of the operating losses and the impact on the hospitality and other related businesses like the Hotels, Community Auditorium, service clubs, Fort William Historical Park, etc. did not seem to have been taken into account in Phase 2-3 of the consultants’ report.
I have expressed such concerned in a guest column on the local daily newspaper and the feedback from the community indicated that many shared similar concerns, which led me to vote against the project.
The article can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.
Since then, it has become apparent that combining the convention aspect with the arena part of the project is not a good idea as it limits Council’s flexibility to adequately plan the two components. For example, the Arena component to eventually replace the Gardens could be developed on the site of the Port Arthur Arena and benefit from the collaboration with the Auditorium in selling tickets, staging/managing sporting events, and use the parking facilities already in place and make it a much more viable operation.
As for the convention side of the business, that could be combined with an Arts and Entertainment Centre in the former Eatons’ building that would help revitalize the downtown North Core through re-purposing a vacant commercial building and build on the already successful arts and entertainment and dining district. Until funding of other orders of government are in place, and issues of financial sustainability and economic viability are resolved I will remain vigilant to ensure that the best interest of all taxpayers and the community of Thunder Bay are represented.