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Colts sound off about Sadlon Arena's malfunctioning audio system

'Last night, the sound system was ugly,' says Barrie mayor, who was at Saturday's game with members of Brantford city council to tour arena
The Barrie Colts take on the Kingston Frontenacs in Ontario Hockey League action at Sadlon Arena in this file photo.

The Barrie Colts didn’t much like the sounds of silence at Saturday night’s game against the Brantford Bulldogs.

Besides losing the Ontario Hockey League game 4-3, a wonky sound system at Sadlon Arena just added to the night’s frustration.

In a post on the Barrie Colts Official Facebook Page, the team said: “We apologize for the speakers not working tonight, where are the new speakers coming The City of Barrie?”

In another post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, and which also mentioned the City of Barrie, the team wrote: "This crowd is ready to get loud, imagine if the speakers were working..."

The posts were deleted from the Colts' social media channels by Sunday afternoon.

Mayor Alex Nuttall, who was at the game with members of Brantford city council, described the sound system as “non-functional.”

He said there was the same problem at the Barn Burner Charity Hockey Game last August at the south-end arena.

The Barrie Colts made posts to their official social media channels following issues with the sound system at Sadlon Arena during Saturday night's game against the Brantford Bulldogs. | Screenshots

“Obviously, it’s not the best look on the city of Barrie when we have three and a half thousand, 4,000 Barrie folk going to the game,” the mayor told BarrieToday. “We’ve got a team in from out of town, and we’ve also got a delegation from out of town coming to look at our facility — what’s good, what’s bad, what’s ugly.

“Last night, the sound system was ugly," Nuttall added. 

It was announced last February that the Bulldogs would be relocating to Brantford from Hamilton, where they had played since 2015. The team will play at the Brantford Civic Centre — which has been undergoing renovations — through to the conclusion of the 2025-26 season.

When contacted by BarrieToday for comment on Sadlon Arena's sound system, Jim Payetta, the team’s vice-president of marketing and business development, said the Colts had issued a statement to their fans about the situation.

In the statement, the team said city staff is aware of the situation and is working toward "replacing the sound system this summer. As you can understand, this is a major undertaking and takes time to complete."

Nuttall said he will be asking city staff Monday why a new sound system has not been installed at the Bayview Drive facility.

A 2023 capital project detail report on the Sadlon Arena sound-system replacement shows $375,000 in prior funding approval and an expenditure of $186,000 that year, for a total of $561,000, funded from the city’s tax capital reserve.

The report also said the speakers and sound system was nearing the end of its useful life, and the sound quality is becoming increasingly poor. It said the sound system has been patched and modified in recent years in an attempt to keep it working.

Nuttall said he gets the point of the Colts’ Facebook message.

“I think that they’re communicating that their expectation on a new (sound) system being in hasn’t been met and it’s now costing probably them, but also looking bad on the city,” he said. “So I think it’s important that we get to the bottom of it, we get it fixed and ensure that while we set the expectation that the Barrie Colts need to be a good partner for us, we need to be a good partner for them too, that it’s a two-way street.”

The 2023 capital project report concluded the now 23-year-old sound system is outdated and needs a new modern system when Sadlon Arena hosts a variety of events, most notably Barrie Colts junior hockey.

And that if not replaced, the sound system may fail and result in potentially reduced attendance.

“A failure would also constitute a breach of services agreed to with the building’s major tenant (the Barrie Colts),” the report concludes.

In late October, Barrie council decided the Colts need to comply with their existing Sadlon Arena deal with the city before a new one is signed. An internal audit found the city isn’t receiving its rightful share of advertising and concession revenue for Barrie Colt’s use of Sadlon Arena. 

The audit has been referred to city staff by council to bring the OHL club into compliance with existing agreements, before a new lease is agreed upon.

The motion reads: "That the 2023 year-to-date internal audit status report dated Sept. 27, 2023 be referred to staff in recreation and culture services in order to bring the Sadlon tenant into compliance with existing agreements prior to execution of a new lease agreement."

The current lease agreement, which was extended last spring, runs until the end of February 2024.

The audit found that thousands of dollars in Barrie Colts revenue has been under-reported and/or unpaid to the city in exchange for the OHL club’s use of the Bayview Drive arena.

Last year’s Sadlon Arena budget includes total gross costs of $1.7 million, according to city figures. With total revenues of $1.2 million, the net cost is $510,000, which is funded from Barrie property taxes. The net cost is expected to be slightly lower in 2024.

Colts officials have taken issue with the internal audit report’s findings. Campbell has made online comments about the matter. He has said the disputed amounts of advertising and concession money from Sadlon Arena are "small in nature."

Campbell also said he sent the city a letter last July requesting “abatement” for all the things he says have been promised to the Colts during the last 10 years of the lease, things that were not done by the city.

And what’s owed to the Colts is far greater than the disputed amounts, Campbell said in his statement, which was posted on social media and the team's website on Oct. 6. The statement did not include any specifics on the amount of money the Colts claim to be owed.

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Bob Bruton

About the Author: Bob Bruton

Bob Bruton is a full-time BarrieToday reporter who covers politics and city hall.
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