Breaking: 579 new parking spots and new tax revenues for city with approval of Downtown Event Centre - Prime

The Downtown Village Development Corporation has been working with the Prime Real Estate Group Inc. and received copies of their plans just completed by their consultants SP+ that would see 600 new structured parking spaces in the downtown core. Prime has the flexibility in their plans to increase the number of spaces should they be required.

The Company has been closely following discussions on the site selection for the new downtown Arena/Event Centre.

The opportunity to add the potential revenue from the existing Sudbury Arena or proposed new Downtown Event Center would be a major influence in the feasibility and design of these builds”

— Jim Searle, Manager, Prime Real Estate Group.


City of Greater Sudbury

Dear Council members,

As the Property Management company for the Landlord at 30 Cedar and 65 Larch we have been working diligently to prepare a recommendation and costing for both buildings with respect to the current and future requirements. We are looking at all aspects of the buildings including the current tenancy, future potential tenancy, building infrastructure and the role these buildings serve in the community.

30 Cedar is an iconic building in Downtown Sudbury and one we feel should be the hub for the financial core. For that to become a reality we understand that there is an expectation from our current tenants and potential tenants with respect to services provided by the building. Our investigations have again and again lead us back to a common theme being parking and the lack of accessible parking.

In response to this we have undertaken to provide to the Landlord a proposal for the construction of an elevated parking structure to fulfill the current and future needs of the building with respect to parking. We have attached a copy of the preliminary design proposal provided to us by SP+ Corporation. The final design is still under consideration and the ratio of daily paid parking and reserved parking is one that would be related directly to tenancy and one that would be modified as those requirements change. We also understand that there is a large demand for reserved parking from other businesses in the downtown and one that as we progress with the design we will take into consideration.

Our building at 65 Larch is primarily a medical building and the existing parking is also under pressure. Many of our tenants and their staff do not use the lot across Medina Lane to free up parking for their patients. Again, we recognize a need and have completed the same investigation into the potential of erecting an elevated parking structure behind 65 Larch Street.

This location has some additional interesting opportunities we have identified during our discussions and investigations. We have not incorporated these into our preliminary design as there are too many what if’s and too much speculation to proceed down that path with the consultant now and instead only directed them to look at the building’s needs. We have attached a copy of the proposal from SP+ for the 65 Larch location as well.

Understanding that this is still very early in the process we do recognize the importance that these builds have with respect to the opportunities to attract new tenants and provide a greater level of service to our tenants and their clients.

We must be able to prove the financial model to the Landlord and any potential investors to be able to justify such a large investment into the buildings. Currently not part of the financial model being proposed to the Landlord due to the uncertainties of the future of the downtown the opportunity to add the potential revenue from the existing Sudbury Arena or proposed new Downtown Event Center would be a major influence in the feasibility and design of these builds.

Kind Regards,

Jim Searle

Prime Real Estate Group Inc.

Download the official letter here.




Councillors, what kind of city builder do you want to be?

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." 
~ Edward Abbey


Dear Mayor Bigger and the Council of the City of Greater Sudbury:

I am writing to express my unequivocal support for a new Event Centre / Arena in Downtown Sudbury. I hope that my arguments will play some role in this once-in-a-lifetime decision that you face and I implore you to keep the heart and soul of our community where it belongs.

By this time, we have heard countless arguments from citizens, planners, community leaders and consultants which back up my view, so I will not to repeat those positions. Rather, my approach, in this regard, is to address you as elected individuals on our council. I want to engage you, on a gut level, in an effort to question your own principles in how you make decisions and what, if any external forces influence your choices that may go against your heart. 

City building is an ancient, profound act of faith in civic culture and a bold endorsement of the permanence and stability we need to thrive as citizens. I am afraid we are losing these core values in many of our elected leaders but I will give you the benefit of the doubt for now. We have put our faith in you to carry this torch and it is my hope that you can think deeply about what you truly stand for.

You were elected to represent the current views -good or bad- of citizens who voted for you and we all understand how this can create a predicament for you, because despite your own personal views on this matter, your constituents determine future elections. You have also been lobbied and sweet-talked by developers and stakeholders with trade offs or deals for your respective wards and have been tempted with dreams of economic growth and tax revenues.

To complicate matters, you were also elected for a much greater democratic cause and that is to consider the legacy of our urban structure for future generations. This calls into question the principles on which you make big decisions, like this one, which is a remarkable opportunity for our civic renaissance. This is milestone vote to test your integrity and responsibility as civic leaders. Do you want to be remembered as the council that killed downtown in exchange for an arena and motocross site next to a dump? I hope not.

This dichotomy in your personal motivation as elected officials places the quality of future urban life against the reactionary desires of today’s voters, all framed by the questionable seduction of an ill-conceived, grandiose development. Unless you have information that the public has not been made aware of, it is quite clear that the Kingsway scheme is driven purely by the needs of the development consortium and not by any consideration for a greater civic vision or urban plan.

Of course, the Kingsway vision makes perfect sense for ambitious developers who have been unsuccessful in attempts to develop their lands by the dump for many years. Who wouldn’t see this as another opportunity to try there? Who wouldn’t want to profit from the perfect storm of a fragile downtown, a crumbling old arena, a new hockey team owner, and a vast swath of empty land on the side of a highway? If I were an investor, I would certainly push for this as a brilliant money-making venture with a thirty year lifespan backed by taxpayers. I’d be crazy not to. We know that this is the driving thinking behind many urban sprawl developments, and this is why it needs to be carefully scrutinized from a civic perspective, beyond the pitching, enticing imagery and revenue it promises to generate. I beg you to consider what deeply held principles you personally hold regarding your city that will inform your vote on this.

The most glaring dilemma with the Kingsway site is that it’s in complete opposition to our master plan, to all advanced planning principles, to global trends in urban economics, but most of all, to the institutions and culture of civic responsibility that we have elected you to nurture and sustain. If you ignore these factors now with this development, why should we take you seriously when you attempt to use those very factors to prevent any other forms of development in the city? Do you even need a master plan? Do you even need research, data, expert opinions or precedents to inform your decisions in future? If you support the Kingsway site, this is the message you are sending out.

Again, I ask, what principles are guiding you as an elected official? Are you sprinting or running a marathon? Do you care about lifetime value and legacy, or is short-term gain and optics the driving force at council? This is beyond budgets and tax revenues. This is about healing a wounded centre and taking leadership to that end. 

The only logical, financial reason I can see for developing the Kingsway site is because the developers already own it. It is most certainly not central to the city, as they argue. For what it’s worth, the intersection of Frood and Lasalle is actually our most centrally accessible site for Greater Sudbury. Any reasonable person with critical thinking abilities can see that this is a classic case of post-rationalization. It is so blatantly transparent, it’s painful.

The Kingsway sprawl scheme, with its arena, casino, fancy hotels, motocross track and related events is most certainly is an exciting one, and if it were so economically viable, some private developer would already have built on it without any gain from taxpayers, as any free enterprise capitalist should. 

There’s always a catch to these mega-projects so let’s not kid ourselves; thirty years from now, when the urban world is a radically different place, when all that infrastructure starts to fail and needs repair, and all that sexy technology is long obsolete, and urban transportation systems have inevitably contracted with our shrinking population, the True North colossus will be handed off to the taxpayers to take over and we will go through this very discussion again. 

At that point, will the next generation of taxpayers spend millions to repair and renovate, if attendance is low, when entertainment spaces have shifted radically, or do we move it somewhere else, to be closer to the next phase of urban sprawl development? By then downtown will be a vast swath of parking lots dotted with a few government buildings, seniors apartments and rehab clinics and not much else. In planning jargon, they call this a donut city - all suburb and a dead, empty heart. Look to any American rustbelt towns if you need precedents for this form of bad 70’s planning. Or perhaps, Kanata’s Canadian Tire Centre, a monolith sitting in empty parking lots 90% of its life. Look to other small cities like London, Ontario if you want to see a thriving revived downtown based around a large arena-event centre. Show us what your principles are and base your vote on critical thought.

Do we do accept this for short term gain, with more unwieldy, inevitably ugly, short-term development of big boxes and hotel surrounded by parking lots, with the promise of a few chain restaurants and low-paying service jobs? Do we accept that the cultural heart of our beloved city should be sideswiped by one consortium’s singular vision? This is where we are heading if you vote for the Kingsway site.

There are countless precedents for failing, visionary sprawl developments and to proceed this way today, knowing what we know in 2017, would be a monumental, shameful mistake on your part. Do you want to be remembered as the council that killed our struggling downtown?

You have all, no doubt, received significant input from the citizens who elected you, and from my anecdotal research, there are two key points they make to support the Kingsway site over the downtown site:

1 - There is not enough parking downtown, and
2 - The Kingsway site is close to Costco.

Close to Costco? Enough said.

If these two points are the guiding principles for your civic vision, I have to say that your thinking is sadly stunted and horribly misguided. If anything, you should be questioning the entire lack of urban design at that Costco site, among others, which is a dystopian wasteland of cars and wind. It’s depressing and inhumane and the antithesis of a civilized public space. If this is your model for the future, Why not just continue this path to destroying what remains of our downtown so we have no streets left to stroll down for a beer after a concert. Sitting on a patio on a hot summer day next to the dump surely trumps the bustling urban experience we seek when we travel to cities around the world.

The issues we face downtown are exactly what council should be ameliorating with projects like an event centre and yet, you are being asked to turn your back on the heart of our city once again. It’s been a slow death by a thousand cuts for too long and this last wound will be hard to heal. As a trained architect who studied urban planning, and who has lived, worked and designed developments in many cities around the globe, I can attest that a strong, active downtown with a well-conceived set of interrelated institutions and commerce is critical to attract investment, young skilled workers and even tourists.

Expanding the Costco sprawl model endlessly, as this will inevitably lead to, will create a brutal dead zone downtown and eventually, a city with no identity whatsoever. Hardly a selling point for future generations. Again, I ask, what are your core principles for city building? Longterm quality of life and investment, or short term gains, turning lanes and parking lots?

Downtown Sudbury needs you to be bold - now more than ever. Downtown developers and small-scale entrepreneurs are waiting for your next move to plant the roots for this shot in the arm and they will follow suit, if you do the right thing. Previous councils naively ignored this principle for too long, and now is your chance to fix that, to respect and see the potential in that history and infrastructure. Now is your chance to take the lead, to instil new life, new energy and investment into the heart of our city. If you do this, small businesses will thrive. More young people and older folks will move there. Tourists will come.

As the great thinker and inventor Buckminster Fuller once said, “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly.” To see potential in this way is a valued attribute that I would hope you strive for. To see what our downtown can become at this juncture is, in my view, one of your greatest responsibilities as leaders. To see the same potential in a site that would tear the heart out of our city would be truly unforgivable. The Kingsway site could still be developed, on its own, for motocross tourism and hotels. Nobody is stopping that and nobody wants them to fail. But their success should not be at our expense.

Despite my personal views on the economic and cultural significance of historic downtowns, I cannot deny that the Kingsway sprawl development is seductive in its ambition, but the bluster used to present it deliberately distracts from its role in the slow destruction of our civic life which is rooted in downtown institutions. 

What principles will you draw from to make your decision based on this truth? To help you answer this question, I leave you with some wisdom from one of the most respected urbanists of our time, the late Jane Jacobs, from her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities:

“Automobiles are often conveniently tagged as the villains responsible for the ills of cities and the disappointments and futilities of city planning. But the destructive effect of automobiles are much less a cause than a symptom of our incompetence at city building.” 

What kind of city builder do you want to be?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for you to do the right thing, not the easy thing. Keep it downtown and feel justified that your legacy will be the renaissance of the heart of our city so We all Win.

Best regards,
Pierre Bonhomme

Robert Kirwan Fails Economic Analysis 101

by Dr. David Robinson, economist at the School of Northern and Community Studies, Laurentian University

Why can't our councillors do basic accounting?

Let me start with an apology. This note might seem like a personal attack. I am going to explain how one of our most prominent and committed councillors is out to lunch about the Event Center.

It isn't personal, though. I am an economist who teaches public finance and cost benefit analysis. From time to time I consult on the economic impact of public projects. I also get to mark a lot of student essays on public policy issues.

Councillor Kirwan has written an essay in the Sudbury Star about the economic advantages of the Kingsway site. I am going to mark it. Lets see why I give Councillor Kirwan a D- for his analysis

1) Councillor Kirwan writes: "a decision to put the arena/event centre on the True North Strong Kingsway property will be the catalyst that will spark the concurrent development of the new Gateway Casino, plus a major hotel and conference centre."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because we get the casino the hotel and the conference center anyway. Gateway will build a casino whether we want it or not. Hotels are eager to get into the downtown and a downtown event center will tell them it is time to build. The hotel plus the event center IS the conference center we need.

2) Councillor Kirwan writes: "There are a number of other complementary commercial enterprises that are ready to locate on the property" He includes the Sudbury District Motorsports Association.

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because the complementary enterprises are largely businesses that will be pulled out of the downtown. The motorsport park has an equally good location available at Sudbury Downs.

Councillor Kirwan seems to think that if you move a bucket of water from downtown to the Kingsway site you will have more water. Please don't let him make any more financial decisions for the city till he takes a course in accounting.

3) Councillor Kirwan writes: "All of this development will only occur if the arena/event centre is slated for the True North Strong property on The Kingsway."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because Councillor Kirwan has no evidence whatsoever that NONE of the items will be build elsewhere.

4) Councillor Kirwan writes: "The immediate impact for the city ... is an increase in commercial assessment ... (t)hat will generate more than $5 million of new commercial property tax revenue."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because Councillor Kirwan ignores the fact that we would get almost exactly the same new assessment in the downtown if the event center goes there. He also ignores the loss of assessment on existing businesses downtown as business move out and projects are cancelled. It is pretty hard to be sure whether city revenue would fall or rise with the Kingsway project. I would guess given falling population and population aging, that the Kingsway project has a serious chance of going bankrupt and cost in the city a lot of money. If it does well tax revenues more likely to fall than rise..

5) Councillor Kirwan writes: "since the city receives five per cent of the revenue from the casino, we will make more than $2.5 million more per year than we are currently making at Sudbury Downs."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because the casino will be built anyway and will increase the number of slot machines in the city wherever it goes. Councillor Kirwan actually has to show that the casino will do three times as much business at the Kingsway than it would anywhere else. There is no evidence at all that this is true. Councillor Kirwan should also think about whether it would be a good thing to have the casino take three times as much money out of the community. It isn't good for the gamblers, the city economy or the charity bingo. So whose side is he on?

6) Councillor Kirwan writes: "The savings from operating losses at the current Sudbury arena will add another $500,000 per year."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because the Kingsway location is so much less central that it is bound to have a harder time attracting people to games. The odds are it will lose more money for the city. And Dario was hoping to get that ongoing subsidy anyway.

7) Councillor Kirwan writes: "the city will generate $8 million of new money just by deciding to put the new arena/event centre on the True North Strong site."

WHY IS THIS WRONG? Because to generate $8 million at the current commercial tax rate of 4% Councillor Kirwan needs to have $200 million in new assessments that would not happen anyway, AND he needs to be sure that the project does not reduce assessments anywhere else. He has utterly failed to make the case.


Almost all of Councillor Kirwan's argument is based on the idea that you can create economic activity by moving a building from A to B. For that profound failure to understand basic economics, Councillor Kirwan gets an E for his essay in the Sudbury Star.

The True North project might actually create some new business. So will the downtown project. My bet is that downtown will create more opportunities. It will support more university based conferences, help attract students to the city, support the existing arts community, reinforce the slowly improving downtown and create a dozen other synergies.

But I don't have to prove that - Councillor Kirwan claimed that the Kingsway site is better for the city by many millions of dollars and he failed to prove it was better by even one dollar.

Dr. David Robinson is a leading expert on Northern Ontario economic development, he was the first person to identify and promote the Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Service sector as our leading sector. He was also the first person to propose Northern Ontario School of Architecture, launched the community committee that brought it into being, wrote the business plan and helped select the director of the new school.

He has consulted for forest-dependent communities and written on the economics of community forestry. He is best known for columns in Northern Ontario Business Magazine that focus on Northern economic issues. He does frequent interviews for the broadcast media.

Here's why The chair of the Valley East Minor Hockey Association Tournament supports a Downtown Event Centre

With the upcoming decision to determine the location of the Sudbury Event Centre, I would like to say that as a member of the Sudbury community that does not live inside the city but on the outskirts of the city in Val Caron, I support Downtown as the preferred location for a new event centre. I am excited that we will be receiving a new updated facility that will increase the activities one can attend within Sudbury as well as the impact the centre will have upon our local business.

As a family that will need to travel to the Event Center regardless of the location I do believe that with downtown being the core of the city it would be more convenient for more of the people within the boundaries of Greater Sudbury overall. Anyone on the outskirts of the city will be required to drive or take transit to attend an event. Downtown is a more central location for more of the community attending from Valley East, Chelmsford, Dowling, Lively, etc. Personally, the parking in downtown is a non-issue for myself. I am familiar with downtown so I do know where available parking is located. I have had the discussion with many friends regarding parking. The common issue I hear is not the costs but the lack of knowledge where one may find available parking. I believe if available parking is better outlined with appropriate signage it will make it easier for anyone not familiar with downtown to figure out where they need to go.

I am a parent of three sons, ages 15, 12 and 8. I am also a very active community volunteer with youth organizations and surrounded by other parents and children daily. My oldest son has been and the younger two will be reaching the age in the near future or a few years down the road where they will begin to attend events without a parent. Instead they are now choosing to go with their friends, like many other teens within community. My children enjoy attending many activities downtown. Besides hockey games at the Sudbury Arena they have been to concerts, Graphic Con, Monster Trucks, Movie Night under the stars, Trivia night at the Fromagerie, teen dances at Zig’s, as well as many other events held downtown throughout the year.

I view downtown as a better location for my children and other young people within Greater Sudbury to be able attend on their own as they grow older and are becoming more independent.  Using the transit system to go to events on the Kingsway would be more difficult of a task for anyone on the outskirts. First, they will require significantly more time to take the bus out to this location. Also, once there, they will have little other activities available for them to utilize at the Kingsway location. On the contrary, when they more easily take a bus to downtown they will also have an opportunity to first or afterwards visit other locations downtown frequented by teenagers, such as Scrabblelatte, Smoke’s Poutinerie or local sandwich shops and café’s. 

If the new event centre location is determined to be on the Kingsway, I do believe it will prevent young people from attending activities and events being held, thereby reducing the opportunity for them to have fun within our city at this facility.

With the issue being heavily debated by many within the community I felt I would like to give my opinion, as well as my support to a Downtown Event Centre.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.


Shannon Baumhour

Valley East Minor Hockey Association Tournament Chairperson/Initiation Convener/Operations Support
Valley East Minor Baseball Association Secretary/Umpire Assignor

Is a Motorsports Park Feasible on the Zulich/Kingsway Site?

With photo from the Sudbury Star

With photo from the Sudbury Star

For immediate release:

June 20, 2017

Is a Motorsports Park Feasible on the Kingsway Site?

Over the last 3 years, Sudbury Downs has actively examined the feasibility of establishing a motorsports park at our site.  Our extensive research included:

  • Traveling to most motorsport facilities in the Province;
  • Detailed discussions with current park operators;
  • Visits to our site by industry experts;
  • The conceptual layout of a motorsports park at our site; and
  • A detailed analysis of the BDO Business Case Study commissioned by the City of Greater Sudbury in 2011.    

Regrettably, the clear and obvious conclusion was that a motorsports park was not feasible at Sudbury Downs without a long term commitment for continued operation of the existing casino.

So, how can the Kingsway site make sense - let’s look at the facts:

The BDO Study

BDO estimated the costs to construct a motorsports park at the Sudbury Airport lands at $17 million. This estimate was on a relatively flat piece of land that was mostly sand and gravel. The land was valued at $0 cost.

Sudbury Downs

We have conceptually estimated the cost to construct a motorsports park at Sudbury Downs to be $8-$10 million. We have a flat site with sandy soil and no rock or swamp - easy to build on. Most importantly, we already have the existing infrastructure - access roads, parking, sewer, water, washrooms, food & beverage, zoning, a grandstand and even a race track.

The Kingsway

What does the Kingsway site provide?  Motorsport parks require large areas of flat land. The 100 acres proposed by this site has the following attributes:

  •     Not even owned by the promoter;
  •     Consists of rock and swamp land that would cost many million dollars to level;
  •     Has no infrastructure in place;
  •     Has no funding in place; and
  •     Is located next to the municipal landfill.

Clearly, a motorsports park on the Kingsway site would be so costly that, by any measure, it would not be feasible and will not happen.

The grand vision, the dream, is great - but motorsports enthusiasts have been looking for a home in Greater Sudbury for over 20 years. The problem with a dream is sometimes you have to wake up and face reality - a first class motorsports park is expensive to build and costly to operate.

With expanded gaming at Sudbury Downs, we can pursue the development of a motorsports park at our facility at a significantly lower cost when compared to either the Airport site or the Kingsway. This reality - these facts - present the best chance of seeing motorsports activity within Greater Sudbury.

For more information check, email or call Andrew at (705) 855-9001. 

Download official press release here.

Northern Ontario Society of Architects: the Event Centre belongs Downtown

The following letter was written by the Northern Ontario Society of Architects, a group of 34 architects from Northern Ontario, and sent to Mayor Brian Bigger, Members of Council, and Ron Henderson, Special Advisor to the CAO. 

Re: Greater Sudbury Sports and Entertainment Centre 

Success in public office demands a bold yet balanced blend of enlightened leadership and sound management. Architects hold a similar trust, often called upon by those in office to help shape our communities, our public domain. It is the opinion of NOSA members, through our professional expertise and experience that the proposed Events Centre should be located in the downtown core. 

History writes of successes in the public domain, and for the City of Greater Sudbury there are several to note. For those making Sudbury home in the early 1900’s, community leaders balanced work in the mines and on the rails with a connection to the natural beauty of the Canadian Shield. A streetcar line bonded Downtown with Copper Cliff and Ramsey Lake, allowing access to work, commerce and recreation. It is heartening today that we have community leadership that is again building on this history with the Elgin Greenway. 

Inspired by the vision of a connected community rooted in a rich tradition of natural resources and a spectacular natural environment, our leaders have made a culture of health a sustained priority for over a generation. The re-greening of Sudbury and the continuing improvement of air and water quality have been balanced with a vision to have the City serve a Hub for health services in the North. Health practitioners are now fully trained here and practices flourish in our region. Our tradition of hospitality has also enabled patients from remote communities to be brought here for treatment and rehabilitation, and an emerging era of research in health sciences is well under way. 

Our leaders have also developed a global outreach in our training, college and university programs which have served to deeply enrich the cultural diversity, hospitality and respectfulness of our community. 

Leadership vision has also provided us with projects such as the McEwen School of Architecture which is brilliantly set within the living lab of Downtown where students learn first-hand about the challenges and rewards of designing and building in our community and others akin to it in the North around the world. The interweaving of First Nations, Anglophone and Francophone cultures, languages and traditions is also serving to guide the path of this project to become an international leader in architectural education. 

Concurrent with the architectural school, and soon to be a neighbour to it on Elgin Street downtown, the Place des Arts exemplifies collaborative leadership in the Francophone arts community, bringing together a whole host of talent in a breathtaking multi-functional creative facility, continuing to build on our strengthening sense of what is means and feels to be of Sudbury. 

The successes flowing from all of these leadership decisions have served together to shape Sudbury as a remarkable community in the North and Sudburians as uniquely hospitable, intrepid, creative, tenacious, respectful people. 

So, as with the forging of the early bonds of Downtown with the mines and Ramsey Lake, the opening of the Sudbury Arena by His Worship Mayor Beaton and Council in 1951 provided a place for the community to gather for sports and events, a further affirmation of the importance of public places as part of a Sudburian’s experience Downtown. A new Events Centre Downtown is the next chapter in the written history of successes in the public domain that define and celebrate Sudbury. 

Your Worship and Members of Council, we trust that the rich tradition of successful leadership outlined above will serve as inspiration in defining a path forward for this most significant project. Your consideration, understanding and conclusion that the Events Centre is best suited in the Downtown of Sudbury will shape the experience of Sudbury and Sudburians for the next generation. 

Respectfully Submitted, 

Northern Ontario Society of Architects

Located in 14 communities across Ontario, the Local Architectural Societies are the regional chapters of the OAA, providing opportunities for dialogue between local architects and the wider architectural community. The Northern Ontario Society of Architects is led by a group of architects from across Northern Ontario. With a constituent group of 34 members and a geographical reach ranging from locations such as Sudbury, Parry Sound, Timmins, Manitoulin Island, NOSA provides a venue for dialogue between local architects and our Northern communities, where we deliver opportunities for leadership, continuing education and community outreach. 

The Kingsway Casino - What’s the Real Deal?

With photo from the Sudbury Star

With photo from the Sudbury Star

For immediate release
June 16, 2017

The Kingsway Casino - What’s the Real Deal?

Greater Sudbury’s slot facility has been housed at Sudbury Downs since 1999.  Recently, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment announced that a Letter of Intent had been signed to build a new casino on the Kingsway.  The comments below are offered in response to Gateway’s recent announcement. 

Let’s Get Real

Letter of Intent

The Gateway announcement presents few, if any, details respecting the Letter of Intent executed between the parties.  Are there conditions attached to the Letter of Intent, is it binding, what is the reality of Gateway’s commitment to the site?  In fact, after Tuesday’s initial announcement, Gateway clarified that it is keeping its options open and that the casino could remain at Sudbury Downs, or move to a location other than the Kingsway.  So clearly, despite the misleading impression of the Gateway/Zulich initial announcement, there is, in fact, no binding Gateway commitment to the Zulich site.


The report states that 250 new jobs will be created at the casino.  The facts are that there are currently 406 slot machines at the Sudbury Downs site and a total of 200 employees working there.  The OLG has stated that any casino in Sudbury would be subject to a maximum of 600 slot machines and possibly a few table games.  Slot machines are extremely efficient with respect to the amount of service and support labour they require so how does a 50% increase in the number of slot machines require a 100% increase in employees?

Gateway also indicates that 700 person-years of construction work will be created with the project.  There is no doubt that any proposed new casino project will create new construction jobs.  However, 700 person-years, or 350 full time people dedicated to a single project for two straight years, is an astonishingly huge construction force for a relatively small, locals oriented $60 million casino.  Is this realistic?

Beyond construction, the Kingsway project anticipates the creation of over 1,000 jobs.  However, how many of these jobs will be new, or simply a transfer of workers from the current casino and the current arena?  How does this translate into the creation of a “new industry” ... Sudbury already has an operating arena and an operating casino.  How many truly new jobs will be created?

Sudbury’s Casino Cannot be “Bigger than Casino Rama”

We cannot be “bigger than Casino Rama”.

Sudbury has been approved for 600 slot machines - Rama has 2,500 slot machines.

Gateway estimates a total of 400 jobs - Rama employs over 2,500 people.

The total population of all of Northern Ontario is less than 1 million - there are several million people within a 1 hour drive of Rama.

Municipal Approval Required

The location of the new casino is subject to municipal approval.  The privilege, and burden, of ultimately deciding where the casino locates belongs to Mayor Bigger and our 12 City Councilors.  Since 2012 the potential relocation of the Sudbury casino from our site at Sudbury Downs to a location closer to the people, has been a contentious issue.  A new casino closer to the bulk of the local population is estimated to generate an additional $30 million of net win annually - that is $30 million more, each year, leaving our community.  

Mayor Bigger and our local Councilors will indeed be faced with an historic decision regarding making the casino more accessible and convenient for local residents to visit more frequently.  Can our local businesses and local economy afford the losses that will result?

For more information email or call Andrew at (705) 855-9001. 

Download the full press release here.

We're feeling the momentum

We just hit 1000 followers on Facebook!  Our message is spreading. People are starting to see the big picture. We still have a lot of work to do but we are all energized by your support. Invite your friends to join our Facebook page & let's keep building momentum.

A chat about the campaign with CBC Morning North

Jeff MacIntyre, chair of the Downtown Sudbury BIA sat down with CBC Sudbury's Morning North to chat about the momentum that's building, the impact that downtown event centre's have in other cities and the massive benefits that we'll see in Sudbury.

The Economic Case for a Downtown Event Centre

by Dr. David Robinson, economist at the School of Northern and Community Studies, Laurentian University

Part 1 — You may pay more taxes

As an economist I am often asked what I think of the various proposals for a new Sudbury Event Centre. About a year ago I made a list of what I thought were the economic implications of different locations. I gave the list to Downtown Sudbury. Since the issue has heated up, and city council is approaching a decision point, I thought I’d share some of the major observations.

Not surprisingly, I found a long list of ways that the proposed projects affect the economy of the City. Some are very simple, some are more subtle. 

One important effect works though the impact on downtown businesses.

The effect on downtown business

Oraclepoll conducted a poll of downtown business people on behalf of Downtown Sudbury. Downtown Sudbury is an organizations of downtown businesses, which may raise doubts in some minds. Oraclepoll Research is a Canadian based polling and market research company with offices in Toronto and Sudbury, Ontario. It was founded by Dr. Paul Seccaspina of Sudbury. I am an economist, not a pollster, so I am inclined to take Oracle’s survey of business people downtown as the best available source of data.

According to the poll, 66.6% of respondents in the Hospitality sector and 64.3% of respondents in the Retail sector stated that their business would experience negative or very negative impacts if the new multi-purpose arena facility were not to be located in the downtown. Half of downtown businesses reported they would be would be negatively or very negatively impacted if the Event Centre is not built in the downtown. According to the poll, as many as one fifth of downtown businesses could be lost.

52.1% of respondents believed their business would be positively or very positively affected if a new facility were built downtown and the number of entertainment events and conventions were doubled.

Downtown businesses are reporting something pretty obvious: they are likely to lose business if the current arena is removed from the downtown and a new event centre is built on the outskirts of the city.

Tax Implications

Let’s assume that the downtown business people understand their businesses. They are telling us that revenues for some downtown properties will fall and there will be more vacancies. That will result in lower rents downtown, falling property values, and ultimately, lower tax revenue for the city. The downtown is the City’s biggest revenue generator, and even a small hit to rents will result in significant loss to the City.

Conclusion? If the new Event Centre is built on the outskirts, property taxes will rise for everybody.

Maybe you think that the new developments will bring in enough new tax revenue to make up for the loss. Not a chance. Why? The Event Centre either will not pay taxes or if it does pay taxes, an event centre outside of the core will pay lower taxes than one in the core. The attraction from the point of view of the developers is that properties farther from the centre will be on cheaper land. Cheaper land pays less tax.

The real tax impact comes from spillover effects. There is a lot of valuable property downtown, so the spillover effects are large. Farther out, the amount of high value property nearby is much lower. End of story.

You will pay higher taxes if the Event Centre is not kept downtown.

How much higher? It is hard to say without access to the tax rolls, but the lost of revenue will be in the millions of dollars each year. How many millions? I don’t know. More than one, almost certainly. Less than 20? Probably. But even one million per year for 30 years is a lot of money, so Council should be taking this change into account.

The story here is very simple, but it seems pretty compelling to me. Council has a choice, and the people of Sudbury have a choice, but as economist I have to warn them that one alternative means higher taxes.

Part 2 — What does a new Event Centre add to the economy?

The answer to this question is simple: Not much. The location decision is important though. Location affects how much of a subsidy the Event Centre will need. I’d like to share some observations location and marketing.

There are four main sources of revenue for Event Centres: sports teams, conferences, trade shows, and touring performers. The economics of each of these favours downtown.

The key factor in location is attracting a local audience. The big contribution of an Event Centre is that it improves the quality of entertainment in a community. For the people who go to events, it is good thing. It may also help keep people in Sudbury or help attract new residents.

An Event Centre for Sudbury is not a money-maker. No matter where it goes it will not bring a lot of money into the community. The city subsidizes the current arena. It will subsidize any replacement that goes downtown. It will subsidize Dario Zulich’s proposal if that goes ahead. That isn’t a reason not to build a new Event Centre if we want one.

But lets look at the marketing issues for each of the major users of an event center.


Sports teams depend on local fans. The bigger the local base, the more revenue they can bring in. Unfortunately the revenue all comes from the local economy. Sports teams simply capture a share of the local entertainment budget.

The only important question economically is whether which location will draw the most attendance. This is important because the better the attendance, the more the team will pay to use the facility and the smaller the deficit for the City to cover.

Ideally a sports facility is located the population is concentrated. In Sudbury that is where the current arena is located. As you move the facility away from the centre, attendance will drop off. There is a good reason most pro arenas are situated in their city cores.

It is true that a small number of fans come from other areas for home games. It is also true that local fans go to other towns for away games. The net effect is nearly zero. It is also true that a new facility might support new professional teams. The big issue is still location.

Road access is extremely important to the success of an Event Center. Downtown has roads coming in from five directions - possibly six. That makes for quick access from everywhere in the region. With many exits drivers leaving an event can get home quickly. Since sporting event are usually in the evening downtown has a large and very flexible amount of parking available. I am not an investor, but I would not put my own money into a sports facility outside of the downtown. This is especially so in an area with a declining and aging population.


Conferences can be a source of outside money. There has been talk for at least 30 years about needing a conference centre. Since no private operator thought that it would generate profits, we still do not have a large conference facility. We do have hotels, a university and colleges that handle smaller conferences. These organizations would benefit if the city could attract larger conferences, but the market is very competitive, and Sudbury is very badly located. It cost a lot to get here. The airport is a long way out of town, which makes it even more costly compared to - for example, Thunder Bay, where the airport is right on the edge of town. Large conferences run downhill toward larger population centres like Toronto - not uphill to places like Sudbury.

Improved conference facilities can bring in some new revenue. Ideally that revenue would help existing businesses. With a shrinking population we need to make sure existing hotels restaurants and entertainment facility can survive. A downtown location reinforces existing businesses. Locating a major magnet outside of the core will undermine the existing businesses.

Some of the conferences that we can attract are related to the university. This is true of many of the mining events. The closer to the university the easier it will be to attract these conferences. That in turn strengthens the university, and the university is a major revenue earner for Sudbury. With 9000 students, each worth half a job, Laurentian is actually one of the largest economic drivers in the city.

Finally downtown offers conference planners much better 'amenity' than peripheral locations. It has the best restaurants, performing arts, Science North and walking access to Ramsey Lake. A downtown location is likely to add more to the economy than any other site can. And if conference facilities downtown are expanded there will be more pressure to improve and beautify the downtown.

Trade Shows

Trade shows help pay for a facility, but they only bring in net revenues when they attract visitors from outside of the region. Trade show travellers have greater spending power than typical business travellers and they typically spend a longer time at a destination. The big winners are hotels and restaurants. That suggests a downtown location.

Many exhibitors, however, pay fees that so they can sell things. Sellers want to make a money. Where does most of the money come from? Usually local people. Outside exhibitors are there to take money out of a community. The fraction of local spending that leaves the community is a loss to the local economy. The rest is simply money moved around within the community.

Touring Performers

Performers also visit Sudbury to make money to take home. We want touring performers, not because they bring money to us, but because we want to enjoy their performances. We spend part of our entertainment budget to import their services. And if we as taxpayers want to build a facility to have them perform, that is fine. No one should pretend that these performances contribute economically to the community.

The people who pay for tickets help pay for the facility, though, so a venue for touring shows should be designed to attract as many patrons as possible. That will usually mean picking a central location with very good access.

Conclusions: Downtown is the best location in terms of marketing and serving the local population. Municipal Event Centres generally don’t make money for their communities, but they lose less when they are located downtown.

Part 3 — Infrastructure: How to kill two birds with one stone

Choosing a location for the Event Centre requires council to think ahead. If the Event Centre goes in a green-afield location, it will take new infrastructure. If it goes downtown, the city will have to fix old water and sewer lines and upgrade downtown roads. Either way it will cost money that is not included in the project proposal.

Which location leaves the city better off financially? Since the city has to fix the downtown infrastructure anyway, it seems to me that putting any new Event Centre downtown leaves us ahead of the game. Putting major project farther out means adding new infrastructure and postponing repairs to the infrastructure we already have.

Sudbury already has an “infrastructure deficit” of $1.4 billion. An infrastructure deficit is just the cost of repairs that you will have to pay for. My house needs a new roof, the old maple at the back needs a tree doctor, and my driveway needs paving. I will have to have spend close to $10,000 soon. That is my infrastructure deficit.

Sudbury’s collection of potholes are the just most visible signs of the its infrastructure deficit. The city is $700 million behind for roads. Another $345 million in needed work is hidden beneath the ground in the older parts of the city. Water and sewer pipes that are more than 50 years old is past its stale-date. Much of the infrastructure for the most valuable land in the city will have to be replaced or repaired soon.

If Council members are thinking ahead they will use the construction of an Event Center as an opportunity to catch up on our infrastructure deficit rather than taking on more future expenses. The good news is that the city could bundle a downtown Even Center project with major infrastructure upgrades in the downtown and probably get Federal and provincial assistance. Council could kill two bird with one stone.

Part 4 — What happens when it snows?

Last year, the city ran a deficit of nearly $2.3 million on snow plowing and removal. According to the City’s Director of Roads, David Shelstead, the deficit for the first two months of 2017 was just shy of $700,000.

The annual budget to plow roads and sidewalks, as well as salt and maintain the roads, is $4.28 million. Climate Change may reduce thew total precipitation a bit, but it is not likely to reduce the costs.

One thing we can be sure of is that if we build a new Event Centre on new land at the edge of the city we will be plowing more roads and more parking lots. We will still have to plow downtown. Snowplowing costs for the City will go up. How much? Ask David Shelstead. I would guess that we would add around one percent - less than $50,000 per year - 30 cents per man woman and child. It is not much to add to taxes.

On the other hand, if we build a new Event Centre downtown, we will not pay for more plowing because the plowing is already done for all he businesses and services in the downtown.

Council should add between one and two million dollars to the lifetime cost estimate if it decides to build outside of the downtown.

Dr. David Robinson is a leading expert on Northern Ontario economic development, he was the first person to identify and promote the Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Service sector as our leading sector. He was also the first person to propose Northern Ontario School of Architecture, launched the community committee that brought it into being, wrote the business plan and helped select the director of the new school.

He has consulted for forest-dependent communities and written on the economics of community forestry. He is best known for columns in Northern Ontario Business Magazine that focus on Northern economic issues. He does frequent interviews for the broadcast media.