Friday, March 5, 2021

Chatham-Kent denied bid for multi-sport arena funding

It’s back to the drawing board in Chatham-Kent, as the community was denied funding from the upper levels of government for a proposed twin-pad arena and multisport complex.

Chatham Councillor Doug Sulman shared the news during the electronic Council meeting on August 10, 2020.

“The public, and I’m sure Council, is aware that we’ve been turned down for our funding of the mega-project, the arena project as of today,” Sulman said.

Council had been debating a report to Council about staff proving options for a 0% budget in 2021 during the meeting (read the report here and watch for a full story on the Sydenham Current).

West Kent Councillor Melissa Harrigan has entered a motion to remove arenas from the analysis, but it was voted down by Council.

Sulman said being turned down for the funding from the Provincial and Federal governments “really drives looking at arenas everywhere” when staff is preparing the report.

“Even is you don’t want to do things and we want everything to remain the way it was in 1997,” Sulman said.

“We’re not doing our due diligence if we don’t examine where things should be changed, where things should improve and where things should progress. We do that with healthcare, we do it with other items, I don’t know why we cherry pick and say no you can’t look at these things.”

Sulman added: “Ultimately, if the majority says no we’re just going to stay where we were in 1997, that’s fine, but at least the public should know, the tax paying public should know, the facts.”

Thomas Kelly, general manager of infrastructure and engineering services, said the denial of funding for the multisport complex will force Council to make some difficult decisions moving forward.

“The fact that we did not get the funding from the Canada Infrastructure Program, as you recall we had put aside some money of our own, we were asking the Federal and Provincial governments for about $38-million for their level of contribution and we were going to remove both the Memorial and the Erickson Arena from the inventory,” Kelly said during the August 10, 2020 Council meeting.

“Because of that decision now, I would personally ask that arenas remain on, because we have to make some tough decisions with both of those arenas.”

Kelly said staff’s initial estimates to get Memorial Arena in Chatham “back to a decent arena” would be about $18-million.

“The same goes with Erickson as well… there is some major issues,” Kelly said.

“It’s not a savings, the discussion we need to have is an investment strategy, so I think that needs to come back to Council for particularly those two arenas. We’ve got some tough decisions to make on both of those two arenas.”

Back in February, Don Shropshire, the CAO for Chatham-Kent, said the approvals from the provincial government had been delayed.

“The provincial government had received $11-billion worth of requests for funding and they have approximately $1-billion to distribute,” Shropshire said at the time.

Originally, the plan for a new twin-pad arena and multisport complex in Chatham-Kent moved forward on Monday, May 27, 2019.

Council approved replacing Chatham Memorial Arena and Erickson Arena with a twin pad and an Indoor Multisport Community Centre.

The maximum municipal contribution was set at $18.5-million, with investments in servicing and traffic mitigation costs not included.

The project construction would commence only when funding from the higher levels government is confirmed.

Council approved that upon completion of the construction of the new facility, both Memorial and Erickson Arenas would be closed, re-purposed, divested, or potentially demolished.

Council also directed administration to secure land options to accommodate the project along with an incremental 60 acres for outdoor sports fields for baseball, rugby, hockey, cricket and soccer.

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