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New arena destined for Lakeshore Drive barring late comeback

The glacial pace of the arena development could quicken in the next week as a decision — one way or another — looms
Rendering by MJMA Architects and Mitchell Jensen Architects of North Bay's proposed Community and Recreation Centre, adjacent to the existing Steve Omischl Sports Complex.

The writing is on the wall for local politicians. With their backs against the wall, it's time for them to come out of the room, set the tone, get off to a quick start and get pucks in deep. In keeping with the hockey clichés, it's time for North Bay City Council to either shoot or pass the puck.

North Bay taxpayers await word on the price of admission and a committee meeting Tuesday could provide those answers.

The decision on the proposed $51.6-million community and recreation centre to be located at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex on Lakeshore Drive is already well into overtime. If this were a regular season game, it would already be headed to a shootout.

The recommendation from staff remains for council to "direct staff that upon completion of the assembly of construction documents to initiate the tendering for the construction of the multi-purpose community and recreation centre."

Judging by the remarks made in election campaign surveys and in this new council's meetings, it is clear many who were elected had an appetite for further discussion on the community and recreation centre project before deciding. Many of them leaned toward approving the development barring any major red flags. If the voting follows the campaign promises, this project will be approved by at least a couple of votes.

In December 2022, a special committee meeting was called and held quickly following a motion from Coun. Jamie Lowery seeking an update, including the estimated cost and business plan to operate the facility.

See related: City staff makes case to go ahead with arena project

The new arena is destined for Lakeshore Drive barring a late comeback. It is clear Councillors Gary Gardiner and Jamie Lowery are against the proposal in its current form and Coun. Sara Inch and Coun. Mark King are on the fence but have indicated they are leaning toward voting against it. Mayor Peter Chirico initially spoke against the project in election remarks but has since softened that stance in public meetings. He remains a wildcard. The rest have always been in favour to varying degrees but needed assurances to get them there — some more than others.

When we last checked in on the ongoing saga of the proposed development in December 2022, the same committee would not make a decision on moving the approximately $51.6-million development to the council level for a vote before City of North Bay staff had the time to address their additional questions and concerns about design, cost, and site suitability.

Coun. Justine Mallah, the chair of the council's community services committee was the driving force behind referring the matter back to the committee level while the staff sought answers to several questions, among them whether the $25.77-million Green and Inclusive Community Buildings (GICB) program funding can be transferred if the project were to be moved to another location and a more detailed breakdown of ongoing maintenance and operating costs. 

Tuesday's committee meeting will provide those answers and the members will likely be polled on whether or not the development should move forward to the council level for final approval.

Estimated costs of the project, based on the Class A Cost Estimate, costs incurred to date and estimated costs for allowances such as furniture, fixtures and
equipment, permitting, operating supplies and equipment, preliminary design and project support etc. are summarized below.

  • Architectural & Engineering Services $2,520,500
  • Construction Costs (Class A as of November 2022) $43,531,000
  • Allowances $2,569,857
  • Contingency (5.8% of overall project) $2,984,204
  • Total Project Cost (as of November 2022) $ 51,605,561

The report states the cost estimates for the project are within the funding envelope previously shared with the previous council in June and in the funding submission to the GICB Program. The total committed costs to date on this project are $2,614,501. A completed GICB funding agreement will be in place prior to the award of the tender.

A preliminary financing plan has been established for the City of North Bay Community and Recreation Centre. The $25.778 million in federal GICB funding "along with the City’s prudent planning to use one-time dividends and Canada Community Building Fund will finance the project. The final amount of the special debt will be subject to the completion of the tendering process and finalization of the project cost."

Below is an overview of the financing plan:

  • $4.3 million: PAYGO (Tax levy)
  • $3 million: Reserve Special Dividends
  • $9.4 million: Canada Community Building Fund
  • $25.8 million: Green and Inclusive Grant
  • $9.1 million: Special Debt (subject to change based on 2023 Capital budget deliberations and final tender contract)
  • Total = $51.6 million

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.
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