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Charlottetown makes multi-purpose sports, culture and entertainment complex its top priority

A task force is recommending the development of a 5,000-seat arena and a second arena seating 400 to 500 as part of a multi-use sports and event centre in Charlottetown.
A task force previously recommended the development of a 5,000-seat arena and a second arena seating 400 to 500 as part of a multi-use sports and event centre in Charlottetown. - Contributed
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

The City of Charlottetown has made funding for a new multi-purpose sports, cultural and entertainment centre its top priority.

Coun. Terry Bernard
Coun. Terry Bernard

Council recently passed a resolution stating that a multi-purpose facility is the city’s No. 1 priority for funding under the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).

Next on the list would be funding to help replace the aging Cody Banks Arena and Simmons Sport Centre.

There are a number of pillars that qualify for this kind of federal funding — public transit, community, culture and recreation, rural communities and green infrastructure. The city is applying for funding under the recreation pillar.

Coun. Terry Bernard, who vice-chairs the city’s strategic priorities and intergovernmental co-operation committee, said it’s meant to show the provincial and federal governments that the city is serious about moving ahead with the project.

“The provincial government obviously wants to know what our priorities are and there may be some movement with some of the funding streams coming from the federal government that has more money allocated to it than others,’’ Bernard said.

Coun. Alanna Jankov chairs the committee but was out of province when the vote took place and deferred comment to Bernard.

The QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats are shown practising on the ice at the new 8,800-seat Avenir Centre. Wayne Long, Charlottetown’s events development officer and lead city staff member on a task force looking into a potential new multi-purpose entertainment and cultural centre for Charlottetown, took the picture while part of a group from the city that toured the complex and met with various people involved in the Moncton arena proposal. - SaltWire file photo
The QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats are shown practising on the ice at the new 8,800-seat Avenir Centre. Wayne Long, Charlottetown’s events development officer and lead city staff member on a task force looking into a potential new multi-purpose entertainment and cultural centre for Charlottetown, took the picture while part of a group from the city that toured the complex and met with various people involved in the Moncton arena proposal. - SaltWire file photo

The city has been told before that such a project does not qualify for ICIP funding because a new facility would include as tenants a semi-professional hockey team (major junior hockey’s Charlottetown Islanders) and a professional basketball team (Island Storm). The city has argued it has no contracts in place that would see the Islanders and Storm play out of a new multi-purpose facility, although it seems pretty likely both teams would.

However, the city sent a delegation to Moncton to check out the new Avenir Centre and talk to officials about how things unfolded there. In that case, the city’s major junior hockey tenant was playing out of the Moncton Coliseum and wasn’t committed to moving to Avenir Centre. That facility was also built with about $20 million in federal funding.

“They were told the same thing,’’ Bernard said, referring to Moncton’s request for ICIP funding and the connection to the hockey team.

When Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown recently made a trip to Ottawa, he was also told that the feds won’t help build a facility that houses semi-pro and pro teams.

“What we’re showing here is that this is important to us,’’ Bernard said. “We don’t know if we’re going to be able to get all the funding we need but, right now, it is our number 1 priority as far as any funding coming from ICIP.’’

On top of all this, the city is awaiting a significant report from Toronto consultant Sierra Planning and Management, a firm which specializes in finding appropriate funding models for projects like this. That report is due sometime in March. It will list other facilities across Canada, similar in size to the other Charlottetown wants to build, and point out how those projects were funded. Sierra will also recommend ideal locations for such a facility in the capital.

Bernard estimates it will take $55-$65 million to build a facility in Charlottetown.

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