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Charlottetown MP says major new arena project not eligible for federal dollars

Charlottetown Islanders assistant coach Guy Girouard adjusts a pair of skates in the team’s dressing room at Eastlink Centre on Monday. The existence of the major junior hockey team and the pro basketball Island Storm makes a new arena project ineligible for federal government funding.
Charlottetown Islanders assistant coach Guy Girouard adjusts a pair of skates in the team’s dressing room at Eastlink Centre on Monday. The existence of the major junior hockey team and the pro basketball Island Storm makes a new arena project ineligible for federal government funding. - Dave Stewart

If Charlottetown is ever going to get its long-awaited multi-use sports and entertainment complex, it will have to do so without the help of the federal government.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey says such a facility is ineligible under the existing federal infrastructure fund.

Casey is referring to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a signed agreement between the province of P.E.I. and the federal government.

The City of Charlottetown has applied for $19.5 million under ICIP to replace the Simmons Sport Centre and Cody Banks Arena. The city’s share would be $5.8 million while the province would pay $6.2 million and the federal government would take care of the remaining $7.4 million.

However, the city was told it can’t apply for ICIP funding to help it build a new 5,000-seat arena to replace Eastlink Centre.

By comparison, the 4,428-seat Credit Union Place in Summerside opened in March 2007 at a cost of $42.5 million, a cost shared by all three levels of government.


No money here

The P.E.I.-Canada agreement states that certain projects are not eligible for Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) funding. Here is one example:

  • A professional or semi-professional sport facility that is primarily a commercial operation, such as those that serve major junior hockey leagues

Casey confirmed a new arena wouldn’t qualify for ICIP funding in an interview with The Guardian on Monday.

Essentially, Casey said the explanation comes down to one simple fact — the Simmons and Cody Banks arenas are non-profit ventures while a multi-use sports and entertainment complex, one with a professional basketball team and a major junior hockey team, is considered a for-profit operation.

“Their goal is around community development and community use,’’ Casey said, referring to Simmons and Cody Banks.

“As long as Cody Banks and Simmons are identified as priorities by the provincial government, they would be eligible for federal funding, but under no circumstances would a facility that houses, as tenants, a professional basketball team and major junior hockey team be eligible.’’

Casey said he hopes the province considers Cody Banks and Simmons as priorities.

“If they haven’t, I would be quite happy to push the province and the MLAs to make it so,’’ Casey said. “There is no question that the need is there, (and) I hope the province accepts that.’’

Back in December 2017, a task force set up by Charlottetown city council recommended a 5,000-seat complex, one that would likely include room for a new curling complex. The cost is said to range anywhere from $74 million to $100 million.

Mayor Philip Brown said he got the same message from the feds but is still pushing ahead and wants to hold a public meeting on the issue this year.

“I was told when we were doing our capital projects that this type of funding does not apply to a multi-use sports centre,’’ Brown said.

When asked Monday about other potential funding, Casey stressed there isn’t anything that could be accessed for a new area.

“I have discussed with some members of City Hall just exactly how it could work. As long as the project is advanced as a for-profit project with professional/semi-professional tenants in it, it wouldn’t qualify.

“It’s a matter of waiting to see if sometime in the future if there is a pot of money available. There certainly isn’t on the horizon.’’

Casey said there would be some Canada Games money on the table (P.E.I. hosts in 2023) but not nearly enough to impact a major arena project.

Twitter.com/DveStewart


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