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November 14, 2018

Saskatoon council backs planning for downtown arena/convention centre

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Saskatoon city council endorsed starting to plan for a new downtown arena and convention centre and identifying the best spot for a district around the facility.

City manager Jeff Jorgenson said the decision, supported by council in a 10-1 vote on Tuesday, means the city will no longer focus on renovations to Saskatoon’s aging suburban arena, SaskTel Centre, or the downtown convention centre, TCU Place.

Instead, it focus on a combined facility or facilities downtown and establishing a district around the arena/convention centre, similar to Edmonton’s Ice District.

“I think it’s important for the citizens of Saskatoon to know that we’re not approving an arena today, we’re approving a process to look at an arena,” Coun. Bev Dubois said at Tuesday’s governance and priorities committee meeting.

Coun. Sarina Gersher alone voted against the plan, saying she’s heard concern from residents about the number of capital projects the city has taken on. Otherwise, councillors and the mayor spoke in favour of the strategy.

“We are going to see this accelerate, I predict, given the interest around the table,” Coun. Mairin Loewen said.

Several councillors stressed the downtown facilities represent a long-term plan and no decision on funding or a location is imminent.

Jorgenson cautioned that even the timeline to identify a location is a long one.

“I don’t see that as weeks or even a few months,” he said. “That’s going to take some time.”

SaskTel Centre marked 30 years since its opening earlier this year, while TCU Place marked 50 years. The city-owned facilities commissioned a study that recommended new facilities over continued renovation.

“We’re not starting from scratch here,” Coun. Troy Davies said. Many other cities have replaced aging arenas, so Saskatoon can learn from them, he added.

Davies got support for several motions, including hearing back on a funding approach that would minimize the need to use property taxes to pay for the new facilities.

Keep reading in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix


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