Future Saskatoon downtown planning should include option for new arena

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Future Saskatoon downtown planning should include option for new arena
WATCH ABOVE: City administration said any future plans for downtown Saskatoon should include the option for a new arena. Ryan Kessler reports – Nov 7, 2018

A new arena should be considered in any future plans for downtown Saskatoon.

A report heading to the city’s governance and priorities committee said a number of factors went into administration’s decision, including the benefits it would have on other businesses including restaurants, hotels, and the shopping district.

READ MORE: New arena and convention centre recommended for Saskatoon

“Considering all factors, the administration concludes that any future downtown planning should be developed with the option of a future arena construction in mind,” Lesley Anderson, the city’s director of planning and development, said in a statement.

Anderson said there would also need to be an analysis on how an arena would affect infrastructure.

“We have to explore the effects of any new facilities on roads, parking, water, sewer and how to mitigate potential impacts,” she said.

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WATCH BELOW: The case for a new arena in downtown Saskatoon

The challenge for a downtown arena is the perception that it will make traffic worse, according to the report.

The report notes the facility and event don’t typically operate during peak hours and people may arrive earlier with more dining and shopping options nearby.

Downtown also has more entrance/exit routes than SaskTel Centre.

Regardless of bus rapid transit’s eventual placement on 1st or 3rd Avenue, all potential downtown arena locations are within walking distance to BRT stations, according to the report.

A separate report outlines funding options.

The report said 25 per cent of funding for many convention centres built in Canada since 2010 have come from the municipality.

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It also stated municipalities, on average, funded 60 per cent of cost for arenas and stadiums constructed in non-NHL cities since 2005.

“This analysis is not intended to provide funding strategy for such a project,” said the city’s chief financial officer, Kerry Tarasoff.

“We want the committee to have some information and to highlight what some of those financing options could look like.”

READ MORE: Support grows for new downtown arena: Tourism Saskatoon

An amusement tax, naming rights, business district levies and parking revenues are among the funding options.

Tax incremental financing (TIF), where a portion of subsequent property tax increases is put toward paying off a project, is also an option.

TIF would only direct tax money collected within a specific area that benefits from the new facility.

Government funding from other levels of government “will be tough,” Tarasoff told reporters.

“Without that provincial piece … the business case is weakened quite a bit,” Tarasoff said.

The cost to replace SaskTel Centre and TCU Place is estimated at between $330 million and $375 million.

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The CEOs of both facilities have previously stated they would prefer a new facility rather than upgrades to the current buildings.

TCU Place is 50-years-old and SaskTel Centre opened in 1988.

An October 2017 poll found just over 63 per cent of those surveyed favoured a new downtown arena and convention centre.

The committee will consider the report on Nov. 13.

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