New Saskatoon arena given priority

The original Saskatoon downtown arena, nicknamed The Barn, opened in October 30, 1937 on a site overlooking the river. The building began to show its age in the 1970s but the last hockey game took place February 2, 1988 (a week before SaskPlace opened). Clinkskill Manor, a low income seniors highrise now sits on the former arena site.

In a city projecting another deficit year, it might seem strange that Mayor Charlie Clark has decided to lay down a mandate for a new downtown rink.

But Clark has recently declared that a site for the new arena will need to be chosen before the end of 2019.

What’s the big rush?

Without a plan there can be no action

In Spring 2018 a study was ordered by Saskatoon City Council to investigate the viability of a downtown arena.

SaskTel Centre has entered an age cycle where major renovation will be soon be required if the City continues to operate it.

Council has weighed the options and decided the best option would be combine a new arena with an expanded convention centre to replace the equally aging TCU Place.

There is currently zero consideration, however, for where the estimated $330 to $375 million for this new facility will come from.

Who’s paying for this thing?

City Planners are being tasked by Clark and his Council to come up with the location so they can presumably start drafting a plan to pay for it.

This would be the biggest development ever undertaken by the City and it’s fairly certain they would be shouldering the most significant portion of funding.

According to the feasibility study, municipalities have been on the hook for approximately 25 per cent of the funding for new convention centres.

With the absence of an NHL team, some cities have paid more like 60 per cent of the funding for new arenas or stadiums.

Close to home, the report notes that Regina put up 62.2 per cent of Mosaic Stadium.

With that data in mind, do I dare utter the words arena tax?

Let’s not get new location wrong again

I think we can all agree that putting a hockey rink in the middle of nowhere was in hindsight a poor decision.

In a finite area like downtown the options aren’t exactly plentiful though.

The City’s purchase of some of the former STC bus land seems logical.

But the rumours continue to swirl that the Toys R Us site is the best choice.

One small hitch to that: it’s privately owned and not technically for sale.

I’m sure any good salesman would tell you everything is for sale and there is some truth to that theory.

But if Council is the driving force to funding this new facility, they cannot afford to pay a premium on the land and that is what purchasing a site like Toys R Us might entail.

Part of bigger picture

Council also needs to consider all the other moving parts to their plan.

One reason they support the idea of a new arena with combined convention functionality is that it aligns with their greater plan to develop a rapid transit system.

No word yet on where funding for that is coming from either, but again, with no official plan in place the work will never get started.

In a quickly growing city it would seem we are on the cusp of growing too big for our current transit infrastructure.

I can’t wait to grab the light rail system from 8th St down to my first concert at the new rink.

Any idea how old I’ll be when that happens, though? With no way to pay for this vision, I’m hesitant to even garner a guess.

Let’s hope I’m still attending rock shows by then!

Posted by Kelly Macsymic

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