The first steps are being taken towards the eventual replacement of Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre.
The city will investigate partnerships with private companies with a goal of replacing the aging 17,400 seat arena within the downtown core.
The committee received a consultant’s report on Wednesday which says that a smaller 10,000 seat facility would have stronger commercial viability since it would be “right sized” to meet demand within the local market.
The report puts the cost of a new sports and entertainment venue in the $130-million range but Ernst and Young’s Ryan Pendley says the alternative, more expensive in the long run, is to continue spending millions of dollars each year to maintain existing, outdated facilities.
Pendley also says any new facility should be downtown since good access to public transit is “critical” and because it needs to be built in proximity to other associated businesses and services, including restaurants and hotels.
But he also agrees that having an anchor tenant is “critical” because that provides a “base level of activity” and a “steady income stream.”
In the case of FirstOntario Centre, the Hamilton Bulldogs are that anchor tenant, responsible for exactly half of the 98 times that the arena was used in 2018.
Bulldogs Owner Michael Andlauer, in partnership with Cadillac Fairview, is pushing for a central mountain location and has offered to put millions of dollars towards construction of an arena, if it is built at Limeridge Mall.
Ward 7 Coun. Esther Pauls, who represents that area, urges colleagues to open their minds to that option.
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