One small step for council, one giant leap toward a new arena

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 12, 2016

The current Eastlink Centre in red, with the nearby former government garage in green and possible additional land now used for parking next to it in light green.

It’s one line in the City of Charlottetown’s 2016 capital budget.

But it represents a giant leap toward finally building the new arena that many capital area residents have wanted for years.

The city’s capital budget includes $75,000 that will be at the disposal of a task force that will explore what a new multi-use arena would include and how much it would cost.

The money would be used to hire consultants, for example.

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said Thursday the city is currently contacting people who will serve on the task force, with the goal of identifying who they are at the next regular monthly public meeting of council on March 14.

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This process does not guarantee it will lead to a new facility being constructed to replace Eastlink Centre, which opened in 1991.

“Just because you’ve got a task force exploring this does not mean you’re going to build it because the business plan may come back and say it makes absolutely no sense to do this,’’ Lee said.

The task force will look at the ice needs in Charlottetown, which is an issue considering the city has decisions it has to make on aging buildings like the Cody Banks Arena and Simmons Sport centre.

They’ll also have to look at the kind of facility that would be needed to attract events such as concerts and trade shows.

Lee said a new arena could also include a curling club, with the Charlottetown Curling Club considering its options at its present location.

Of course, the harness racing industry and Atlantic Lottery also play an important role in what happens.

“The intent is to appoint individuals that are not directly involved in any of the user groups.’’

That means no one from the hockey community, for example, will be appointed to the task force.

Once the group determines what the needs are, how much it will cost to build and what the capital costs are in terms of operating it, users of the Eastlink Centre will then be brought into the next phase of the process to help determine what a new building would look like.

Lee said it will likely take the task force nine months to a year to do its work.

It’s hard to predict how much it would cost to build a new multi-use facility because there are so many moving parts right now. The speculation is it would likely be at least $40 to $60 million, depending on what the building includes.

As for seating capacity, Eastlink Centre currently holds 3,717 for hockey. A new arena would likely have capacity for 5,000 seats.

It goes without saying that it would have to be a cost-shared project between all levels of government. Additional funding could come from other sources, depending on user groups.

As for the location, everything seems to point to building it on the site of the current provincial government garage between Park Street and Riverside Drive.

The province is currently in the middle of a process to move all of its operations out to Brackley, opening up a vacancy for the new arena.

 

“Just because you’ve got a task force exploring this does not mean you’re going to build it because the business plan may come back and say it makes absolutely no sense to do this." Mayor Clifford Lee

FACT BOX

Taking sides

“... The appearance by [James] Taylor in Summerside once again hammers home a message to Charlottetown City Council: that the capital doesn’t have a facility that can match the one in Summerside.” To read more, see The Guardian’s editorial, Page A6