Skip to content

Gardiner: New arena should proceed at Omischl

'We have a $26-million grant tied to the Omischl site and I can tell you it is undeniably tied to that site. Our MP has confirmed that time and time again.'
Coun. Gary Gardiner sees the Omischl site as the only option for the twin pad arena project to move forward as proposed.

Coun. Gary Gardiner says he has done his due diligence on the City of North Bay's proposed twin pad arena and community centre project and he has concluded there is only one way it gets done after 12 years of debate and at a reasonable cost that leverages the federal grant money.

"I believe the only path forward to get a new arena is through Omischl," said Gardiner during the Feb. 27 regular North Bay City Council meeting. "The Omischl site already has a completed environmental assessment, geotechnical engineering, and traffic studies. The reality is these studies typically take one to two years to complete. And, any other proposal means starting over."

See related: New arena inches closer to design phase despite opposition

Gardiner made the comments in the aftermath of a presentation by citizen Bill Antler, who favours a rehabilitation and construction project at the West Ferris Arena over building at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex five kilometres south on Lakeshore Drive.

See: Citizen says community centre 'is West Ferris'

Gardiner says he has had conversations with MP Anthony Rota on the federal GIBC funding from the Liberal government since the previous $70 million-plus project collapsed.

"We have a $26-million grant tied to the Omischl site," Gardiner continued in council chambers, "and I can tell you it is undeniably tied to that site. Our MP has confirmed that time and time again. He did allow us some leeway to redesign the facility to bring the cost down."

See also: City ready to go to market on new arena with $60M target

Council twice voted in favour of moving the long-running project along with a 9-2 majority in mid-February.

See: Lowery loses arena re-vote: 'We need to listen to our community'

Coun. Jamie Lowery and Coun. Sara Inch voted against the staff recommendation to authorize the issuing of a request for proposal to contractors with a project target budget of $60 million that would employ a progressive design-build. The project is scheduled to "achieve substantial construction completion in 2025 and meet the Zero Carbon Building (ZCB) Design Certification requirements of the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) Program funding contribution agreement between the City and the Government of Canada."

See: West Ferris Arena motion shows cracks in the ice at council

Like Antler, Lowery and Inch have been working behind the scenes to clarify the status of the West Ferris Centennial Community Arena and to possibly renovate or repurpose the building and grounds.

The ongoing arena saga was named BayToday's top story of 2023, according to our readers.

The City of North Bay's financial department has prepared a new preliminary financing plan that "includes the $25.778 million in GICB funding from the Government of Canada, one-time dividends and funding from the Canada Community Building Fund, OLG revenues, PAYGO, Municipal Accommodation Tax, potential surplus from open and cancelled projects and Special Debt to finance the Project and inform the Target Budget to be included in the Project’s RFP for construction of the community and recreation centre."

PODCAST: King on financial plan for new arena: 'It's concerning' 

In December 2023, council members learned a rebooted project would, according to a hired Colliers Project Leaders consultant, come with an estimated cost of at least $60 million. The plan is for the target budget of $60 million to cover the design and construction of a new community and recreation centre. In August 2023, a trident-shaped community and recreation centre project was shelved as bids to build ballooned to more than $70 million and the overall cost neared $80 million.

After reviewing the information received from the Colliers report, the design and budgets of similar community centre projects and "current cost guides and construction indices," such as Statistics Canada Building construction price indexes, municipal staff advised "it is necessary to include a budget target of $60 million to attract serious and broad market interest and participation in the RFP that will lead to the selection of a qualified proponent to undertake a Progressive Design Build of the project that meets the current expected functional program, Zero Carbon Building technical requirements and target schedule within the Target Budget."

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
Read more

Reader Feedback