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EDITORIAL: Movement needed on Charlottetown sports arena

Two of the many possible configurations for a proposed new dual-ice-surface, multi-use arena endorsed by the Charlottetown Multi-Use Facility Task Force Committee.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Two of the many possible configurations for a proposed new dual-ice-surface, multi-use arena endorsed by the Charlottetown Multi-Use Facility Task Force Committee. ©THE GUARDIAN - City of Charlottetown

Time has come for action.

After years of talking around the periphery of the need for a new multi-use sports arena, we’re hoping there will be an announcement soon to push the project forward.

But we’re not holding our breath.

With a municipal election set for November, we don’t expect much tangible movement on the project publicly until the new council is in place.

With that in mind, it is a prime opportunity for city residents – and hence voters – to raise the issue when candidates come knocking at their door looking for their vote.

A task force struck by the city released its much-anticipated report seven months ago. It recommended the development of a 5,000-seat multi-use sports and events centre.

Coun. Kevin Ramsay, who chairs the advanced planning, priorities and special projects committee, said at the time he would like to see ground broken in 2018.

He was not alone.

We know these things take time and there are a number of checks and balances that need to be met before projects of this nature get the green light.

We also know all levels of government – and likely key stakeholders too – were well aware of the possible outcomes when the task force was struck in the spring of 2016.

We are sure municipal leaders have raised the need for all levels of government to co-operate on such a project quietly behind closed doors for years.

Mayor Clifford Lee said in January council instructed administration to begin discussions with potential funding partners. He also speculated there might be some cash available with the province hosting the 2023 Canada Games.

Well, another six months have gone by with no shovel in the ground in sight.

We are not suggesting the city could, or should, move ahead on its own. It needs others to buy into the project for it to become a reality. But the window to have the facility ready for 2023 is getting tighter and tighter with every passing day.

Ideally, the facility should be open and have hosted a few big events before the nation’s top young amateur athletes arrive in five short years’ time.

There will always be reasons to put it off — first a municipal election, followed by a federal election and then, you guessed it, the provincial politicians will go to the polls.

But there are reasons to make a decision and move forward with the project now, if the powers that be believe in it. The city’s current facilities need an upgrade with aging infrastructure costing more and more to keep operational.

New facilities have popped up across the region, including in nearby Moncton. And in recent years smaller communities than Charlottetown and Moncton have found ways to build such facilities.
There’s no denying they come with a heavy cost and rarely do they make a dime.
The cost of building the facility was estimated to between $74 million and $81 million with an additional $2 million for 500 parking spaces in January. Well, the cost will likely be more before the doors swing open on the shiny new facility. They always seem to with these projects.

But they are needed facilities that are key for P.E.I. residents while also helping to boost the economy with the ability to host larger sporting and cultural events or trade shows.

We hope this latest report is acted upon soon and not just another one that collects dust on a shelf.

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