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Phase 2 Feasibility Report on Proposed Event Centre Released


October 10, 2012 – The completed Phase 2 Feasibility Study Report on a proposed Thunder Bay Event Centre will be presented to Council as a first report on Monday, Oct. 15.

The consulting team, using a broad-based Site Evaluation Matrix, is recommending the Downtown/Waterfront site because it offers the greatest short- and long-term benefits. A flexible, multipurpose facility is recommended that will include both spectator and conference components including 5,700 seats and a 50,000 square foot conference centre with major meeting rooms and a banquet hall for up to 1,000. Based on the Phase 2 Feasibility Study, the proposed Event Centre will have significant one-time and ongoing direct economic benefits to the City. The corporate report recommends moving forward with an initial Request for Expressions of Interest related to private sector interest in the project.

“The Downtown/Waterfront site is exceptional in terms of character and potential,” said Conrad Boychuk, Senior Director, CEI Architecture, lead on the Phase 2 Feasibility Study. “A new Event Centre on this site would result in a truly unique entertainment venue that will garner national attention, build on the success of Prince Arthur’s Landing, and promote Thunder Bay as an event destination.”

"For more than two years citizens have told us that they are solidly in support of a new Event Centre providing it's affordable and a catalyst for economic growth of the City and region,” said Mayor Keith Hobbs. “The consulting team with a wealth of knowledge of Event Centres are recommending that the Downtown/Waterfront site presents the greatest immediate and future benefit.”

Based on the Phase 2 Feasibility Study, a number of positive economic benefits are expected as a result of construction and operation of the proposed Thunder Bay Event Centre. During operations, 265 to 380 full-time jobs will be created with annual employment income of about $5 million. The proposed Centre will support more than $20 million in new spending annually including $6 million in visitor spending.

The report process has been designed to provide time for Council and interested members of the public to review and consider the findings and recommendations. The report is available for public review at www.thunderbay.ca/eventcentre and at City Hall, and a public meeting will be held on Nov. 21 with a presentation at 7 pm at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium. The Corporate Report will then be discussed by Council on Monday, Nov. 26.

"Subject to Council's approval, the next step in the process is a detailed design and financial/business plan which would include exploration of funding opportunities and public/private partnerships,” said Tim Commisso, City Manager. “We have already invested more than two years of work in the development of this major project and there will be several more years ahead to put all the pieces in place. We have a proven track record with Prince Arthur's Landing and we can bring that expertise to bear to create a destination for residents and visitors that will continue the transformation of our city."

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Contact:       Tim Commisso, City Manager, 625-2224
                    Michael Smith, General Manager - Facilities, Fleet & Transit Services, 684-2774, 
                    Conrad Boychuk of CEI Architecture, 604-687-1898,

Qs & As

What economic benefits are expected?
A number of positive economic benefits are expected as a result of construction and operation of the proposed Thunder Bay Event Centre. During construction, about $150 million in direct and indirect spending is expected together with $80 million in employment income growth and about 1,125 person years of employment. During operations, 265 to 380 full-time jobs will be created with annual employment income of about $5 million. The proposed Centre will support more than $20 million in new spending annually including $6 million in visitor spending.


Why is the Downtown/Waterfront the recommended location?
The Downtown/Waterfront site:
- scored higher in the Site Evaluation Matrix (79.7 compared to 63.1 for Innova)
- is consistent with general consensus that Downtown North is the entertainment district or precinct
- will be a critical element in the transformation of the historic downtown Port Arthur, similar to many precedents in both Canada and the United States
- combined with Prince Arthur's Landing will create a unique synergy as a destination for residents and visitors


What is the projected cost?

Total overall cost is approximately $106 million. This includes $92.6 million for the Event Centre facility (including site works and a new pedestrian overpass), $7.23 million for a new 200-stall parking structure and $6.3 million for facility “fit up” (including public art) and relocation of the Hydro substation.


Why is Innova Park not the recommended location?
The Business Park ranked lower on the Site Evaluation Criteria in all categories except parking and access. However, dedicating over 1,000,000 square feet of land to periodic surface parking would under-utilize valuable development land. Innova Park continues to be appropriate as a business park. Most of the sales of properties in Innova have happened in the last three years. Its location near Lakehead University, Confederation College and Thunder Bay International Airport is more supportive of its use as a business park. The potential for a significant new mining and industrial cluster (i.e. supply and services) within Innova Business Park is consistent with the City's long-term vision for this site.


Will there be enough parking at the Downtown Waterfront location?
Yes if, as recommended by the Consulting Team, a 200-stall two-level parking structure is built nearby the Event Centre. The site sits within the context of existing parking made up of both public and privately owned stalls to support day-to-day activities. There are also over 200 privately-held parking stalls within the area that could be dedicated to event parking, according to owners.

What's next?
Subject to Council's approval of the Phase 2 Feasibility Study on November 26, the proposed next step is preparation of a Detailed Facility Development and Financial Plan/Business Plan (“Project Ready Plan”) in 2013. This will include Expressions of Interest for possible Public Sector and Private Sector involvement.
If the project moves forward, how will it be funded? and is it affordable?
Subject to the approval of the Phase 2 Feasibility Report, Phase 3 will include a strategy for funding the project based on a higher level of design, a more detailed estimate of probable costs and a refined business plan.  The proposed Event Centre project requires significant one-time financial support from other orders of government and the private sector to be realized over the next few years. A preliminary Option for City funding of 33.3% would require $35.4 million. Of this, $25 million is currently in place through Renew Thunder Bay (an interest bearing reserve fund) and a further $8 million will need to be confirmed in 2013/14. This option assumes combined Federal and Provincial financial support of $55.7 million and private investment of $15 million. New debt of $2.4 million would be required for the new parking structure (1/3 share of cost). As detailed planning for the various phases of the project are completed, Administration will provide additional reports to City Council outlining future financial implications.


Is this the right time to move forward, given the recent flood and the City's infrastructure needs?
A major project such as the proposed Event Centre takes many years to move from concept to reality. At this stage, City Council is receiving a recommendation on preferred location and to move forward with Expressions of Interest for private sector partners, to explore funding opportunities and to prepare a more detailed design and business plan. The City must absolutely do its due diligence and be ‘project-ready’ in order to secure federal and provincial support.
 Since the May 28 flood, the City has been fully committed to recovery from the unprecedented event and funding from other orders of government has already been committed through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program including $10 million to assist with the cost of returning the City’s infrastructure to pre-flood conditions.  An assessment is ongoing and plans will be brought forward to City Council in future regarding any improvements to the City's waste water collection system.
A focus on infrastructure renewal has been a priority for this City Council. In 2011, the City introduced the new Enhanced Infrastructure Renewal Program, resulting in an additional $2 million spent annually on tax-supported road and related infrastructure. Council approved a further increase in spending of $7.5 million over the next three years (2012-2014).
 The proposed Event Centre would require significant one-time financial support from other orders of government and the private sector to be realized over the next few years.  The City has $25 million currently in place through Renew Thunder Bay (an interest bearing reserve fund), leaving a further $8 million to be confirmed in 2013/14 to reach a 1/3 share.


How can the public learn more?
The consultant's report is available for review on the City's website at thunderbay.ca/eventcentre and at City Hall (as of Wednesday afternoon). The consulting team will present their findings and recommendations to interested members of the public on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 7 pm, at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium, 1 Paul Shaffer Drive.