It would be cheaper to fix existing arenas than to build a new facility, they argue
Last month, council voted 8-4 in favour of the Valley East twin pad project.
Most councillors were enthusiastic about the project; however, Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo expressed some concern about its impact to Capreol.
“There’s no question it is going to benefit the people of the Valley,” he said at the time. “But if council moves to build this facility, council is going to be looking for other facilities to shut down. What could be a great benefit to the Valley will be a huge detriment for a place like Capreol, which currently has the benefit of two ice pads.”
There are currently four ice surfaces in the Valley – two in Capreol; Centennial arena in Hanmer; and the Raymond Plourde arena in Val Caron. If the twin pad project moves forward, the city will shutter three of those surfaces. Only Capreol no. 2 will remain open, which means there will be three rinks in the Valley area.
Now Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini is joining Jakubo in expressing hesitation over the twin pad (Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc joined Jakubo and Vagnini in voting against the project last month).
“I think we need to fix up what we have, as opposed to building new,” Vagnini said this week. “The costs associated with repairing are much less than the costs of a new build. One of my biggest concerns is that we are going to be taking away from Capreol and really disservicing them by taking away one pad.”
Vagnini has done the math. In order to rehabilitate the three arenas that would be closed, it would cost about $7 million, plus $596,000 in accessibility requirements. The twin pad, on the other hand, would cost taxpayers $27 million.
Tom Price, who works closely with Vagnini, said even the twin pad will require about $600,000 per year in maintenance. Vagnini said when you consider maintenance, plus operating costs and debt repayments, the yearly costs to build new are much higher than they would be to remediate what already exists. The current arenas are already paid for, so there is no debt repayment, Price pointed out.
“We’re going to come away with one less pad and I don’t understand how it’s going to support or boost the economy,” Vagnini said. “Yeah, it’s a brand new building, but at the same time you’re taking away one ice surface and in theory, you’re really going to be hurting the people of Capreol, because on a regular basis, they do have tournaments. Directly and indirectly, that creates between $5,000 and $7,000 for the community.”
Vagnini said he would like to see the city maintain what it already has.
“Do the work that is required to bring them up to the standards they need to be at and move forward,” he said. “All of the new buildings we want are really nice, but we’re in an environment today where the province is looking at cutting back and we’ve got to tighten our wallets too. To do all these nice projects, the taxpayer can’t afford it anymore. If we go another 3.5 to five per cent this year on a tax increase, there are people who are living on the edge. We have people who are retired, where their pension is only indexed one per cent per year.”
Poverty is a problem in Sudbury. According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, there were 20,265 residents of Sudbury living in poverty. The city’s population in 2018 was about 166,000, which means about 12 per cent of Sudburians are living below the poverty line.
“We have to look at our essential services,” Vagnini said. “Those are the ones that are most important – EMS, police, fire and roads. It’s not that they’re bad projects – the twin pad is a great project – but they’re not in tune with the times. We’ve got to put our priorities in place and deal with our needs, not our wants.”
Despite the concerns of these two councillors, many on Facebook have given the project the thumbs up. Devin Shyminsky offered some novel suggestions for the way the twin pad could be used.
“This has a chance to do something really neat. They should be highlighting more some of the other benefits, like outside access to the change rooms so soccer can use it,” Shyminsky wrote on Vagnini’s Facebook page. “What excites me most about those change rooms is that they will be accessible for the outdoor skating path they want to build. I think that will be amazing. When I think about two ice pads beside the soccer fields I also wonder about the potential for moving Valley Easy Days there. They could use the field and ice floors for all kinds of stuff, like concerts and vendors. Let’s get it out of that crummy dilapidated parking lot. It would make our arenas much more than a seasonal property. This has a real possibility to become an awesome centre to our community.”
Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan would agree. Kirwan said during last month’s meeting the time has come for the twin pad. By building now, he argued, the city can avoid paying escalating construction costs.
“The support for putting the pads together and making it more environmentally friendly, and actually using the space to meet a lot of our population health concerns, and providing a real hub in the centre of Valley East and Capreol together just makes sense,” Kirwan said. “The Valley needs this; Capreol needs this. We do view the Valley and Capreol as being neighbours. I don’t think this is going to be detrimental to anybody.”
Finally, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, in whose ward the twin pad would be located, said last month he has met with users of the proposed arena, as well as soccer groups in the Valley and they are all “ecstatic” about the project. The current facilities in the Valley are insufficient for the number of users, as well as inefficient, Lapierre commented.
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