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Could a bigger Sadlon Centre be on the horizon?

'This expansion is necessary to make our facility competitive,' says official of plan to build three-storey addition including new entrance, sports bar and retail space

Barrie’s Sadlon Arena could be growing up and out.

City councillors will consider a motion Monday night to apply to the Ontario Community Building Fund - Capital Stream for an expansion of the Bayview Drive facility.

It would be for a three-storey addition on the north side of the building, including: a new grand entrance to the arena with additional multi-purpose/trade show space, ticket booths, concessions, a multi-use sports bar, additional office and retail space, possibly a new home for the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame, additional dressing rooms, player dining and lounge facilities, medical facilities, storage and meeting space, a media lounge and VIP lounge, a new sound system, an upgraded green room along with additional spectator seating.

“This expansion is necessary to make our facility competitive and have the ability to host major national and international events that it currently cannot house due to lack of seating and event space along with the spaces for the participants not being up to 2021 standards,” said Coun. Gary Harvey, whose item for discussion motion councillors will consider on Monday.

“It is estimated this project will cost $7 (million) and $9 million, however those estimates are from a little over a year ago and thus why I am requesting an up-to-date estimate," he added. 

Staff would work with community stakeholders including, but not limited to, Tourism Barrie, the Barrie Colts organization, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Skate Canada and Curling Canada to ensure that the application meets the requirements of these organizations to host provincial, national and international level competitions.

“My business plan that I would like used for this project will not cost the City of Barrie taxpayers anything,” Harvey said. “If the grant is successful, the other portion of the capital cost could be covered by the new MAT (municipal accommodation tax) tourism tax so tourism is paying for tourism.

“In its first full year in 2019, the MAT brought in just over $1.3 million, which is split between the City of Barrie and Tourism Barrie," Harvey added. “Using a portion of the MAT each year to pay off the construction costs would be the financial model that I would like used.”

Harvey said that looking at this project shows the former Barrie Molson Centre was state-of-the-art when it opened in December 1995, but no more.

“Since then, many cities around Ontario have built facilities with a few thousand more seats and state-of-the-art facilities for the participants,” he said. “This renovation will bring us up to 2021 standards for the CHL, Curling Canada and Skate Canada. This will then put us in a much better position to bid for these events as the addition will add a few hundred more seats, additional multi-use space and two premium lounges including a media centre.

“One of the lounges will be able to house several hundred spectators in a VIP style lounge getting our spectator capacity close to the 5,000 mark,” Harvey said. “This will make our facility state-of-the-art again and revitalize it for another 20 to 25 years before our population gets to the size that the city will then have to consider building a new, much larger arena and at that point this facility will be 50 years old.”

The Ward 7 councillor said the economic impact from hosting national and international events is astounding. Curling Canada events are $6 million to $10 million, Harvey said, the Memorial Cup $16 million to $18 million, and Skate Canada $45 million.

“One major event in the building would cover the construction cost with the economic impact these events bring with them,” he said. “Most recently, North Bay and Thunder Bay hosted major curling events, so why not Barrie? We have far more to offer visitors here with our waterfront community. 

“This will also greatly help and put a financial insurgence into one of the most affected sectors throughout the pandemic,” Harvey said. “Our hospitality industry has been greatly impacted and this will inject countless of millions of dollars into this sector no matter which major event we are successful in securing.”

City staff would get up-to-date estimated construction costs to be included as part of the grant application.

If the application is successful, staff would report back to council on financing options and ongoing operational implications for the proposed Sadlon Arena expansion. 

The Ontario Community Building Fund - Capital Stream provides support for the repair, renovation or retrofitting of existing sport and recreation infrastructure to address public health requirements related to COVID 19 and community need. 

A provincial agency, the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s website says more information will be available later in 2021.

Harvey says the grant has an overall budget of $55 million for the submissions and typically grants cover 50 per cent of the capital cost.


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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