Regina’s executive committee is giving the green light to a group tasked with planning the future of the Brandt Centre.
While it is the home of the Regina Pats and located in the heart of the city’s sports and entertainment district, at the age of 43, the Brandt Centre is past its prime.
“Like anything that’s 43 years old, it was built for 30 to 50 years,” said Tim Reid, president and CEO of Regina Exhibition Association Ltd. (REAL).
REAL is part of the Arena Planning Strategy Committee (APSC) that was created in March 2020 to help plan the future of the facility, including potential maintenance, renovations and new builds.
The Brandt Centre, which was built in 1977 for a cost of $7.7 million, is one of the city’s many recreation facilities with aging infrastructure.
“It competes with buildings that are significantly more costly and significantly newer. The challenge with it is, as it ages, it becomes less competitive,” Reid said.
“It doesn’t have the amenities, it doesn’t have the premium seating, and it doesn’t have all the things that major promoters or event operators are looking for in a venue.”
According to a report from APSC, maintaining the Brandt Centre as is would cost $9 million over the next 20 years with $5 million needed in the next five years.
Renovations would cost $40 million, while a brand new mid-sized, multi-purpose event centre would come with a $100-million price tag and a 50-year lifespan.
“The reality is we need a new venue in the city of Regina,” Reid said.
The APSC brought its report to executive committee on Wednesday, asking for approval to move into phase two of planning.
Regina’s executive committee endorsed the APSC’s five recommendations: prioritize the replacement of the Brandt Centre; develop a re-purposing strategy; develop a short-term maintenance plan; advance the work of the APSC to phase two; and don’t just build an event centre, build a district.
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters called the recommendations “a vision of who we want to be and I’m a big fan of being a sports and entertainment and tourism city.”
“We’re not naturally a tourist destination but those are the types of projects that will really drive visitors to our economy and help grow and support the businesses that are already here,” she said.
According to REAL, 80 per cent of Regina’s hotel visits are driven by signature events.
On average, the Brandt Centre hosts 70 events a year, bringing in more than $860,000 in profit.
A new facility could host upwards of 125 events a year, including various sports like hockey, lacrosse and basketball, according to Reid.
Although it’s too soon to say what the Brandt Centre 2.0 would look like, he says it would likely hold 8,000 fans for a sporting event and expand to 10,000 for concerts and cultural events.
Reid told the executive committee that a facility that size would be able to host “tier one concerts” and compete with cities like Saskatoon for bigger events. Reid added the committee will likely consider REAL’s site, the downtown core, the warehouse district and Old Taylor Field as possible locations.
The executive committee also tasked the APSC with considering the potential locations of a future baseball field, aquatic centre and library.
Masters says these types of capital projects need to be planned together in order to “optimize the entertainment, sports, recreation district we’re hoping to create.”
While many of these projects are still years down the road, Masters says it’s important to have a plan “knowing that a lot of these facilities need to be replaced because we do have heavy infrastructure deficits.”
“We’re entering into a phase where the largest infrastructure bank in our nation’s history is going to be in place for stimulus and we don’t have a lot of shovel-ready projects,” the mayor said.
The second phase will include a comprehensive economic impact assessment, location and site plan, total costs, capital financing plan and operational model.
“To have the planning process in place and actually having the analysis being performed, it’s incredibly exciting and it feels like it’s moving in the right direction,” Masters said.
REAL and the APSC is expected to return to city council by April 2022 with detailed recommendations and results from the second phase.