North Bay City Council agreed unanimously to direct the City's CAO and staff to prepare a 20-year business plan for the proposed Community and Recreation Centre (CRC).
A motion, brought forward by Coun. George Maroosis and seconded by Coun. Mark King during Tuesday's regular meeting was amended to allow for the inclusion of sports tourism data and feedback as it pertains to the centre, which, if approved, will be built on the grounds of the Steve Omischl Sports Complex on Lakeshore Drive.
See original story: Maroosis: 'Let's take a breath and reflect' on Community and Recreation Centre
The amendment from Coun. Dave Mendicino, and seconded by Coun. Mac Bain includes language that the scope of the business plan shall include "revenues and economic benefits from potential new tourism and sports tourism events."
Mendicino spoke to the amendment, saying, although potential revenues from the CRC had been shared in years past, it occurred to him those figures had never included tourism or sports tourism projections.
"We know there are going to be a lot of sports tourism opportunities we have not had before," with the new build. Mendicino observed Larry Tougas, the City's sports tourism coordinator, is anxious for the project to get underway because he's got events that he could bring to North Bay with its approval.
Mendicino then shared a letter from Nicki Chretien, co-owner of Gymtrix, indicating the new CRC would allow the gymnastics club to host events with approximately 2,000 attendees as the club would have the facilities to host provincial championships in the city.
"It shows a great example of what a boost a new centre could be to tourism and sports tourism and the letter really showed to me why this is not just about hockey, it's about our community," Mendicino added.
Maroosis had no objection to including the tourism numbers in the business plan.
"We need a fair assessment of what this structure would be bringing us when it's built," he said.
See related story: (Opinion) New twin pad arena must move forward
See also: (Opinion) Arena project should be put on hold until after next election
Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch observed the business study will not likely show any revenue.
"Community centres — just like transit — are services. I think we need to be realistic with what [the business plan] will come up with," said Vrebosch. "If somebody wants to use this as a negative, it will show a cost, but then you're going to have an economic impact [in tourism] that will show the opposite."
Coun. Bill Vrebosch added his thoughts on the business plan with, "If this was put out to draw a negative towards the project, you have to be realistic. Community centres don't make money. They're a part of your amenity package."
King again warned his colleagues he feels there are some unknown effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to come.
"I know there are a number of people interested in playing hockey. That's great, there's nothing wrong with that," said King. "But, I think as we move forward and we start to recognize the pressures municipalities will feel because of COVID, the usual process is no longer the right process."
King, as Maroosis had earlier in the week, then broached the topic of private ownership of a new arena. He touted a previous proposal with a double-pad, "capitalized by a private operator," with the municipality picking up its portion of the costs for ice time for minor hockey and other groups.
King added, "We know it's going to be between $2.1– and $2.5– million in costs yearly over the term of the loan. This is concerning because in 2025, upon completion of Cassellholme, that cost will be accelerated by another $2.5 million."
King called 2025, "The year of armageddon," explaining the City of North Bay will start the budget process off with $5 million in operating costs because of the CRC and Cassellholme projects.
"Obviously, there are a number of people that are very supportive of the build," continued King. "I, for one, think there are other ways of doing it. We are responsible to the taxpayers of the City of North Bay, and, at the very least, we need to provide them with the operating costs of this proposed, new ice surface."
Mendicino responded, saying, "This private/public thing. My understanding was the City has looked at the private/public thing three times — and they did it during the term of the last council — and, all three times, it was deemed not economical to do it."
He added revisiting the private/public debate would amount to "spinning our wheels," as that process was complete before this Council was sworn in.
"If the City wants user groups to have affordable rentals, we have to kick in annual amounts. Sometimes upward of $2 million per year, I've heard," said Mendicino. "I certainly can see how we get bogged down in these projects when we start talking about things we've already done before."