CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A task force recommends the development of a 5,000-seat multi-use sports and event centre (MUSEC) in Charlottetown.
The much-awaited report, released Thursday, calls for a facility capable of hosting major national events and more frequent regional scale sport and non-sport events.
The bulky report from a task force committee appointed by city council in the spring of 2016 recommends the MUSEC be comprised of a main spectator seating bowl and ice surface as well as a second NHL-size ice surface dedicated for use by the community with seating in the 400 to 500 range.
The cost of building the facility is estimated between $74 and $81 million with an additional $2 million cost for 500 parking spaces.
Development of the MUSEC would require funding from all levels of government and probably community fundraising. Extra funding will likely be available through the 2023 Canada Games, which P.E.I. is hosting.
“Funding is going to be a major, major article in it,’’ says Counc. Kevin Ramsay, chair of the advanced planning, priorities and special projects committee.
“There has to be major, major partners in it.’’
The Charlottetown multi-use task force that has recommended the capital city build a multi-use sports and event centre is comprised of the following volunteer members: Mike Hennessey, Brian Cameron, Spencer Campbell, Dennis King, Barb Stevenson, Counc. Mitchell Tweel, and Berni Wood.
The task force committee debated at length the merit of separating out the investment plans for community ice arenas and the event centre but ultimately concluded that there is greater merit in addressing community ice needs and the event centre in a coordinated, single phase.
“Indeed, the financial analysis of the future operating costs of all arenas together demonstrates that a combined solution has the greatest capacity to lessen the city’s overall exposure to operating deficits for these facilities combined,’’ states the report.
The task force recommends the multi-use facility be built along Riverside Drive on the site of the old provincial department of highway garages.
The committee noted if the city decides to implement the recommendations it will need to assess potential sites within the so-called Eastern Gateway development zone, including assessment of land acquisition costs, timing of acquisition, extra-ordinary site related costs, and site planning for the facilities.
“The city should determine its preferred site and work actively with its partners to realize a developable site and a supporting strategy to bring this site forward in a timely fashion,’’ the task force report advises.
“It is important from a funding perspective to have as much certainty as possible over the choice of location – it informs all aspects of the project planning process and without it, achieving a viable funding commitment is less likely.’’
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The City of Charlottetown is spending between $1.5 and $1.8 million each year to subsidize four rinks: the Cody Banks arena, the Simmons arena, the Eastlink Centre and the CARI complex.
The task force also calls for demolishing the Simmons arena and planning for other use of the lands as contemplated within the Simmons Sports Centre Master Plan.
The task force recommends Cody Banks arena be re-purposed for dry-use recreation and to consider ways to ensure the facility remains a revenue-neutral facility for the city on an operating basis.
The report recommends the Eastlink Centre arena, currently home of the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders, be re-designated as a community ice arena.
City council needs time to review the report, says Ramsay.
He expects council will move on the report in January or February, noting councilors have voiced a lot of support for the development of a multi-use facility.
“They think it’s a good idea and one of the main reasons is because of the aging facilities we have now,’’ he says.
“We felt it was important to release the report immediately to our partners and user groups and we look forward to receiving community feedback on the document before the city takes a strong position in any particular direction.’’
Ramsay says he would like to see ground broken in 2018 on a multi-use sports and event centre with completion in time for the 2023 Canada Games in P.E.I.
The task force spent the last 18 months examining the feasibility of establishing a new sport and entertainment facility in the capital city and creating a succession plan for aging and challenging facilities for city council to review.
The cost of preparing the report, adds Ramsay, was minimal with all members of the task force volunteering their time.
“They took a lot of their own personal time to do this and we can’t thank them enough,’’ he says.