Council expected to vote on events centre in mid-December

By Dominic Abassi
November 15, 2016 - 2:56pm Updated: November 15, 2016 - 4:36pm

A concept picture generated by consultant BBB Architects

Another view of the events centre concept

A concept for the Howard Johnson site

A concept for the Port Drive site

NANAIMO — Nanaimo council will soon be asked to decide if they want to go ahead with a new sports and entertainment venue for the city, according to chief financial officer Victor Mema.

Mema says council has approved up to $175,000 for phase two of a study examining the feasibility of an events centre in the harbour city. Mema says for phase two the consultant, BBB Architects, will focus on seven key areas. The findings are expected to be presented to councillors in time for them to make a decision at the Dec. 19 public meeting about whether the events centre is happening or not, according to Mema.

The advanced study comes on the heels of an initial $65,000 study from BBB, which was presented to councillors on Oct. 24 and to the public Monday evening. BBB Director Gary Green spoke for nearly an hour about the wide-ranging economic and community benefits of not only an events centre, but also a Western Hockey League (WHL) team.

"You only have one chance to do this right every 50 years," said Green, speaking in front of council. "As a result it is worth the efforts right now."

The BBB report considered five sites for the multiplex -- the Howard Johnson, 1 Port Drive, the west side of Maffeo Sutton Park, the Serauxmen stadium area and the curling rink. Ultimately it eliminated all but the first two options, finding only the Howard Johnson and Port Drive sites were large enough, adjacent to downtown and in prominent gateway locations. Challenges were identified for both options however, including Snuneymuxw First Nation and archaeological issues.

The estimated cost for what BBB characterises as a "base project" is $69-million. That would be a facility with 5,700 seats for hockey and 7,100 for concerts, according to the report. There are also two other options identified, with additional costs. Adding 1,200 concert seats and more guest services to attract more events brings the cost up another $8-million. Another $6-million can be tacked on for exterior and interior architectural upgrades. BBB says a third option, with a cost of $62-million, would minimize the cost while still maximizing the opportunity to attract a WHL team. That type of building, the report says, would have about 5,000 seats and minimal facilities to accommodate touring shows.

"This is meant for the community to decide what this facility would look like. We thought this (the concept drawings provided) would be something that is very much part of this region, whereby from people on cruise ships to onwards say 'when you're in Nanaimo you have got to go and see this facility''s gotta be something that is really an attraction," Green said.

Green also raved about the positive economic impacts realized in other communities that have moved ahead with similar projects. He referenced Kingston and London,  Ontario as examples of cities with rejuvenated downtowns and expanded tax bases. The report states there will be annual direct and indirect expenditures of $6.6-million and an employment increase of $48-million with the multiplex.

The report does not reference a specific route for the city to take to pay for the events centre. It offers a long list of funding options, including grants, First Nations, philanthropy or an increase in property taxes.

"At a project's outset, no one really knows where the funding will come from and no one will volunteer to give money...what we have experienced is that when you take a look at the variety of funding options, usually it has been a hybrid," said Green.

Green told council securing a WHL franchise is very critical to successfully developing an events centre in Nanaimo. Mema says among the tasks BBB has been given in phase two of their work is to secure a WHL team for the city. He says they will also do in-depth site studies of the two proposed locations, produce more detailed concept designs and identify possible partners in development and construction. The Howard Johnson group will pay for the study of their site, according to Mema.

The only question asked of Green by council at the meeting on Monday was from Coun. Diane Brennan. She asked Green if their plan was to complete all of the community consultation by Dec. 19. Green confirmed that was the plan. Mema says the community engagement will give residents and the community an opportunity to have input in terms of what they want to see in an events centre, with respect to programming and facilities.

When asked if he felt the one-month window was enough time to properly find out if the residents of Nanaimo actually want a new events centre, Mema said he felt the consultation was adequate.

"The consultation is going to be in phases. Obviously if come Dec. 19 the answer is 'it's a go', I would expect there would be additional consultations beyond that."

A city release states there will be a variety of opportunities for people to offer feedback, including information meetings, surveys and online feedback. There will be a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 24 at the Beban Park Social Centre, followed by subsequent meetings on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, according to the release.

Mema says he expects to have more details on possible funding models by Dec. 19. He says based on the numbers he's looking at right now, the amount of borrowing necessary would require a referendum.

In August, construction of a sports and entertainment factility was identified as one of the top five strategic priorities for this council. You can view Monday's presentation to council here.


About BBB Architects*:

BBB is a full service architectural firm with a diverse portfolio that includes commercial, retail, entertainment, sports, residential, institutional and interior projects. Operating since 1984, we utilize a collaborative process to create innovative, sustainable and cost-effective designs that successfully actualize our Clients’ Goals.

Brian Brisbin, Murray Beynon, Greg Alexander and Chris O’Reilly

SCI, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm specializing in the strategic programming, financial, planning, marketing, development and implementation of sports and entertainment facilities. We work to achieve a higher return on our clients’ capital investment through the development of innovative revenue streams, design efficiencies, ancillary partnerships and unique marketing strategies.

SCIA is a leading architectural firm specializing in sports and entertainment venue programming and design. SCIA was incorporated in 2008 and is an extension of Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects. Our portfolio includes major arenas, stadiums, recreation/training facilities and performance venues throughout the United States. We craft solutions that are unique to each client and market, with an intense focus on fan experience and the economic success of every project.


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