Tbnewswatch Local News
Monday July 6 2015
3:06 AM EDT
2014-04-11 at 16:32

Soo mayor says new event centre was right decision for her community

By Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com

Less than 10 years ago the city of Sault Ste. Marie wrestled with a controversial project.

Facing a $15 million bill to upgrade its 50-year-old Memorial Gardens, the city decided instead to build the new 5,000-seat Essar Centre, which opened in 2006.

"You invest in a 50-year-old building, you put millions of dollars in it and at the end of the day you still have a 50-year-old building," Sault mayor Debbie Amaroso, a city councillor when the new arena opened in 2006, said. "We bit the bullet and in hindsight we're really happy that we did."

Biting the bullet was the right thing to do and its the same advice she offers the city of Thunder Bay as it contemplates a new event centre.

Along with objections of higher costs and taxes, the project ended up at around $40 million with funding from the federal and provincial governments, the Sault Memorial Gardens had a tower honouring its veterans that was eventually incorporated into the new arena, adding a highly-charged emotional element to the conversation.

"People were absolutely distraught that we would lose this," she said of the tower.

But Amaroso said the conversation has changed a lot now that the city has attracted conventions, concerts and been able to use the arena in its tourism campaigns.

"I don't hear many people today say that that was a bad decision," she said.

"As they look back I think that they're pleased that we took the heat and we moved it forward."


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letsgrow says:
With the FW Gardens we the people get low end hockey(sorry) and second-rate entertainment! With the event centre, we the population get the opportunity for a higher level of hockey and entertainment! Can't wait for construction to start.
4/14/2014 10:17:22 AM
Dan dan says:
Of course it's the right thing for the community, and everyone knows it - save a handful of short-sighted troublemakers.
4/13/2014 11:21:41 PM
tbay89 says:
a new arena will have to be built sooner or later.Lets see how much the provincial/federal governments are willing to give and we'll go from there. Nothing ventured nothing gained!
4/13/2014 7:29:49 PM
riv3rc4rd says:
Here's the deal... whether you like it or not, the damn thing is going get built, so why waste countless hours on the internet complaining about it? Get a new hobby because this one's not working.
4/13/2014 12:33:30 PM
unknowncronik says:
If another town thinks it's worth it, it must be worth it in ANY town then, especially Thunder Bay??


Rabble rabble rabble, rabble!!
4/13/2014 5:21:31 AM
tbay87 says:
While I'd agree with the idea that it's probably better to replace the Gardens in the near future than keep it on life-support, I don't think the Essar Center is a great comparison for the city's current plan for numerous reasons:

- The Soo's arena is 700 seats smaller: that doesn't sound like a lot but likely means big cost differences (both building & operating)
- The Soo actually needs over 4000 seats for OHL hockey (CIS hockey - while higher quality - just doesn't have the same fan appeal). And I don't trust that the Jets will be willing to keep losing millions on an AHL franchise in an undersized market just to be closer to their farm team.
- even adjusted for inflation, their arena was about half the cost
- it doesn't have this massive events center attached
- it's difficult to say if simply having a bigger arena would lead to bands like Kiss that TBay can't currently get (also note that there are only a few bands on the lists above that arena size may make a difference for)
4/12/2014 8:57:27 PM
taekat says:
The Jets won't lose any money. There is a cost sharing agreement often referred to as a "supply agreement", I have posted this several times:



In summary, depending on the supply agreement - Jet's AHL team is guaranteed a certain amount - and the city will pick up the tab if there is a deficit.

4/13/2014 9:31:22 AM
S Duncan says:
That's another interesting part of this.

What type of deal is the city guaranteeing for the farm team?

What are they getting us into? What are they promising? Why all the secrecy?

I don't want to be on the hook for 1)the welfare dome construction 2) the welfare dome operational $1.3 Million every year, and not 3) the financial failure of some no name hockey team.

Will we have to make up all the shortfalls when hockey ticket sales tank? It seems its happened before.

We cannot afford this deal at all. Can it get any worse?

How can people's blind support of a flashy building be so strong that they ignore the gaggle of reasons and facts outlining this guaranteed failure?

are they stupid, ignorant? greedy? How else can you explain it?
4/13/2014 6:12:25 PM
truthseeker says:
You can bet Mark Chipman owner of the Winnipeg Jets is looking for the same deal if not a better deal than the one the Calgary Flames have with the city of Abbotsford.

The Flames have set the standard now among owners how to make money and take it to the taxpayer. These NHL owners are all in bed with each other, collusion among owners. Pro sports owners don't give a rats behind about the fans. They only care about the bottom line. How much money they make.

St. John's will break the AHL record of 144 consecutive sellouts. The jets owner don't care about the st. john's fans because he has a better deal in place to fleece the taxpayers of thunder bay.

Think about it, you are going from the best hockey markets in terms of attendance to one of the worst hockey markets in thunder bay. You only do that if you're a pro sports owner if you have reached one helluva deal with the city of thunder bay. Expect 10 years of misery for the taxpayer, same deal abbotsford has.
4/14/2014 7:35:39 AM
fastball says:
Can it get worse?
Well - we can maintain the status quo and do nothing, stay locked into our rigid 1950's mindsets....and continue to slowly slide into irrelevance. Frankly, we're paying over 800K in operational costs for a 75 year old facility now....and I don't think that number's going to lessen as the building ages.
As Aldo said - FWG still has some structural value...but not as a relevant building in today's day and age.
You accuse the pro side of various things - greedy, stupid & ignorant....yet you maintain that the hockey team will be a failure, and this place will lead us all into financial ruin. Frankly, I'm surprised you're still in TBay - what with that amazing psychic talent of yours. I'd have thought you'd have cleaned up on the stock market and lotteries with that amazing, always-correct ability to see into the future.
Sometimes the world moves on, SD - whether we approve of it or not. Be a man, and accept what you cannot change with a little grace and maturity.
4/14/2014 9:07:32 AM
taekat says:
Believe it or not this event's centre was proposed to the city in 2006 for $40million by the University:


Here are some facts

Thunder Bay - 114,000 people with 430,000 people within 4 hours.
Sault Ste Marie - 80,000 people with 5million people within 4 hours.

After analysis, the council realized that it is not a good investment - everything is written in plain english - so what is the difference now - we have an AHL team at our door. Still how does an events centre cost go from $40 million in 2006 to $100 million in 2013 - that is what concerns me - is it the location - have costs increased this much in 7 years?
4/12/2014 6:27:52 PM
Wolfie says:
"so what is the difference now"

7-8 years.
4/13/2014 8:22:52 AM
S Duncan says:
In the phase 2 feasibility study, it claims that every year after 2015, the price of our welfare dome should raise 3%.

so in 7-8 years, the price should have risen at most 24%.

so $40 million + 24% (9.6 million) for a total of

$49.6 million.

How can you justify the extra $50 million?

4/13/2014 5:58:23 PM
Watchmaker says:
S. Duncan - you NEVER take into account the age of the Gardens and the future costs associated with that structure. That building was slated for replacement when I moved here in 1985 and has been on life support due to backwards looking individuals such as yourself.

Get over yourself, MANY people are in favour of this despite a small but vocal minority.
4/12/2014 6:17:32 PM
verotik says:
sault built essential the same amount of seats instead of increasing the size by 1500 or so seats to accomodate larger more expensive tours. they also poo poo'd on spending an extra million to finish more box seating now they are going to pay 4-6 to add in more box seats.
4/12/2014 3:10:43 PM
reese says:
The OATC center is close to the Essar center that explains it
4/12/2014 12:27:51 PM
dynamiter says:
Will somebody at City Hall and other supporters please define an event center? I mean not the hockey rink section that is converted for concerts, or events such as Spring Trade Shows. But what else is it supposed to be. Essar has a few small rooms off on the side. Not enough to be a convention center. When you have a convention center you need large rooms with breakout rooms and almost as importantly large dining room access to feed the attendees during the convention. Essar is a hockey rink that can host other special events such as concerts and trade shows , it does have side rooms that can hold a total of 120 people in the largest room, some convention!!
So is this going to attract conventions any more than what we already have. Build a rink on LU grounds for cripes sake.
4/12/2014 12:00:06 PM
S Duncan says:
It seems if people look hard enough on the internet, theres plenty of complaints about the "acoustics" in there.

Just because a building is new doesn't make it a concert hall. Hockey rinks make for poor acoustics.

but if you're really worried about sound quality, listen to the cd because live will always not have "high quality" sound.
4/12/2014 9:32:06 AM
old vienna says:
as the late great Paul Harvey would say and now the rest of the story. Debbie Amaraso forgot to mention this bit of information and also sault ste. marie doesn't have to deal with a greedy pro sports owner.

4/12/2014 8:47:02 AM
progress now says:
The Soo has 5 million people who live 4 hours away...we have half a million.
4/12/2014 8:37:59 AM
bubba says:
5 mill. seems a bit high, not worth fighting over though. Maybe if Mchigan is counted, and most of them don't cross the border. I lived in the Soo for many years and the old rink was a wreck, FW Gardens is in the same shape.Build a new rink but don't get crazy with it.
4/12/2014 9:46:23 AM
progress now says:
"5 mill. seems a bit high, not worth fighting over though."

I must say it surprised me too, but apparently true. I got the number from the LU study a while back, the one that was looking for a support for an event centre.

I didn't verify all those numbers, but as they were from a credible study, I just passed them along.

4/12/2014 4:13:02 PM
yo_tbay says:
Okay, shred the idea of the event center. And let's pull down the waterfront park, fill in that ice rink/wading pool, bulldoze the condos, re-sod the skateboard park because nobody ever goes there, was a huge waste of money. Forget about any new development anywhere because we can never afford it. It's this kind of backward thinking that dooms Thunder Bay to forever be a redneck, live-in-the-past town never growing larger than 100K. There were naysayers who said we couldn't afford it when the Auditorium and Canada Games Complex were built, and there will always be naysayers who can't see the big picture. No need for any development, let the cores die, we can't afford it. I have to wonder what would have happened if Keskus, Vicville and the Casino had never been built? Would T Bay now be better off?
4/12/2014 8:12:59 AM
cm punk says:
Article states that the arena came at a cost of 40 million dollars.
The price here is 106 million.
There is a big difference price wise.
The so called Thunder Bay factor must be huge
4/12/2014 12:41:46 AM
Common cents says:
Poll Clarification,


Do you support the idea for businesses in the north core to charge a two to three per cent tax to defray the operating expenses of a new event centre?

are you asking if they "can" charge a 2 or 3% retail tax?


Should they "be" charged a 2 to 3% tax on their property taxes?
4/12/2014 12:08:16 AM
Wolfie says:
Did you read your own quote?

Does it say "charge" or "be charged"?

Did you read the letter to the editor that resulted in that question?
4/12/2014 9:08:35 AM
dynamiter says:
To Thundereye and others - this is a fantastic site - have been there. Now what makes this site fantastic. It has loads of parking close by. It has real good access to north, east and west without railroad lines. It has plenty of hotels nearby ( not many new ones but still plenty of hotels). It is really just a hockey rink with a few small meeting rooms to qualify it as an event center. What does the downtown TBay site not have. Parking - very limited and with a long walk. A railroad line running through the site to disrupt traffic and a potential derailment waiting to happen. Very poor street access to and from the site which is why they have shuttle service for big harbour events like July 1st. One new hotel that is only being built because council agreed to put an event centre down there.

If we need a rink which I believe we do, built it or let LU build it but locate it properly - on LU grounds, out on the Flying J site, a portion of Chapples golf course. Access and parking.
4/11/2014 11:40:02 PM
Watchful says:
Sault Ste Marie is and always has been a major tourist destination. The city is clean, close to southern Ontario, sits right on the border. You cannot compare the two. Thunder Bay is dirty, run down buildings, drunks and druggies all over, we just gleem, Welcome Tourists!
4/11/2014 11:30:45 PM
sawmillsteve says:
We need this Event Centre like we need another Mac convienience store.
I'm in total agreement with S Duncan...he sees the facts as they are and a few more on here should see things like he does.
4/11/2014 11:24:42 PM
S Duncan says:
This Essar centre isn't all roses like this mayor claims.


heres an interesting quote from the hired marketing and events planner..

"Artists, management and promoters are aware that fans will travel to catch their favourite band, and acts like Motley Crue and KISS need only book one Northern Ontario appearance - if torn between the Sault and Sudbury, they'll likely choose Sudbury."

so, does that mean we're going into a saturated market ??

If you guys really want a laugh, read the many comments under the story. They are a little less uptight there about what people say.

So, it doesn't look like the concert thing is all that big a deal for us. If big bands know people will travel, then we are less likely to see anything good than many of you think.

it also highlights that when the city tries to manage a business it knows nothing about, the city will certainly fail.

lots of disgruntled citizens there!
4/11/2014 11:12:29 PM
S Duncan says:
it gets better.

this place seats 4400, was completed in 2006, and it cost $22 million.. The feds and province kicked in, plus $1.1 million was raised privately.

so the actual cost to the taxpayers was???

very little, and very much different than our $106 million!!

so why does ours cost 4 times more than their welfare dome?

no wonder she thinks its not so bad, it wasn't all the bad. It didn't cost that much for their welfare hockey.

ours will cost 4 times more, for 1/6th more seats, and only 8 years later.

yeah, we're getting ripped off to say the least.
4/11/2014 10:50:26 PM
musicferret says:
1) They have nothing booked. The centre is nowhere near the number of events consultants estimated they would have had.

2) They did it for $40m, including cost overruns.
What happened to our $45m estimate? Why did it jump to $100m+!?

If this is being used as a comparative study in why we should build the centre, then we must be asking why the costs are so out of line. That is my main sticking point on this project. The cost makes no sense and is approaching the cost of building the entire MTS centre!!! How is that remotely possible?
4/11/2014 10:41:01 PM
Thundereye says:
I tatoally agree with the Mayor from the Soo. I've been to the arena and it's awesome. Thunder Bay so needs this and the location is perfect.
4/11/2014 10:11:02 PM
Common cents says:
Yes a very nice building.

Did you notice the Parking lot on the same parcel of land?

Did you notice the Huge shopping mall with more designated parking for the Essar center right "ACROSS THE STREET"?

If you have not I suggest you go to Google maps and search Essar center take a look!

Build it already! $$$$$$$$
4/11/2014 11:11:44 PM
S Duncan says:
What she claims and reality are often two different things.

Take a look at their schedule.


LOL! they have literally next to nothing booked! 1 event for the whole month of May, 1 in June, (they get to see Heart LOL!!) July and August have NOTHING BOOKED!

The place is just a welfare dome and what we have is another city councillor who will never admit she was wrong when she supported it.

Sound familiar? Remember Keskus? How about Victoriaville? How about the Casino?

these were all supported by people who still refuse to admit they were wrong. She wants to be in good company instead of alone in her poor decision making process so she's here spewing her nonsense trying to get us to go in the poor house with her..

...afterall, misery LOVES company!

LOL!! That schedule is a riot! What a mistake!
4/11/2014 9:54:49 PM
S Duncan says:
ps Leith, I cant get much nicer than that.
4/11/2014 10:14:54 PM
newguyintown says:
Since 2006 -
The Essar Centre has played host to a number of popular musical acts including Jerry Seinfeld, Elton John, KISS, Mötley Crüe, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, Hilary Duff, Three Days Grace, Seether, Gordon Lightfoot, Blue Rodeo, Billy Talent, Alexisonfire, Against Me!, The Cancer Bats, The Used, Default, Jackyl, Slaughter, The Backstreet Boys, Girlicious, Blue Man Group, Charley Pride, Bryan Adams, Stompin' Tom Conners, Sheryl Crow, Anne Murray, INXS, The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, Down, Heaven & Hell, Megadeth, Jeff Dunham, and The Wiggles.(Wikipedia)
4/12/2014 7:14:15 AM
S Duncan says:
Did you see the list of bands that played at the old Memorial Gardens?

A building does not make a destination. Never has, never will.

by the way, how many of those you listed haven't been to Thunder Bay? Take your time with your answer.

I can see at least at a quick glance that 80% of those listed have played here in Thunder Bay.

If I researched further Im sure that percentage would increase as well. The ones that haven't played here (Kiss) have played probably at least 10 times in Duluth. Ive seen em 3 times there myself, and Im not a fan.
4/12/2014 9:07:04 AM
Eastender says:
So I should subsidize you so you can go to concerts?
I like opera, will you be willing to subsidize my enjoyment of opera, by paying a tax levy to build an opera house?

I thought not.
4/12/2014 10:32:28 AM
S Duncan says:
as a matter of fact, the whole schedule is empty at least until December.

yes, Debbie, its a tremendous success!!!

LOL!! I honesty am laughing myself silly at this.

it proves that politicians will never tell the truth.
4/11/2014 10:39:39 PM
Wolfie says:
Hockey arena in summer vacancy shocker!
4/11/2014 10:52:27 PM
S Duncan says:
Where's all the conventions and conferences?

where's all the concerts?

Heart? LOL!!!
4/12/2014 9:25:23 AM
Wolfie says:
What, no comment on the February and March calendars, which had 24 of 59 days booked?
4/12/2014 12:45:14 PM
S Duncan says:
what no comment on the costs?

no comment on the lack of shows?

no comment on the poor acoustics?

no comment on the yearly losses?

no comment on the 2 hockey teams and still losing money?

no comment on the list of bands that played at the old memorial gardens being just as good as the ones that played in the new one?

no comment about parking?

no comment on how they privately raised funds?

no comment on how their list of bands that played there is 90% the same as bands that played here sans a new welfare dome?

no comment on how our city has no website or Facebook page for the FW Gardens but yet we have had similar bands/shows/talent appear in Thunder Bay already?

What, no comment on hockey being non existent in summer in Thunder Bay's welfare dome?

seems like you're choosing to ignore an awful lot just to justify your love for welfare hockey and welfare entertainment?

show me how Im wrong.
4/12/2014 9:25:10 PM
Wolfie says:
Your original post was about the events calendar, and that's what I responded to.

Instead of continuing along the same lines, with a response to my question about February and March, you go off topic with things that weren't in either my post or your original one, nor even in the related article.

To get back on topic... I'm not surprised that a hockey arena would have vacancies in the summer. It seems that you feel that the centre would have to be used every day of the year and turn a profit every year to be a worthwhile investment for the community. I disagree, and will leave it at that.
4/13/2014 8:21:24 AM
S Duncan says:
No, it was not specifically about the calendar, it was about how unused the building is.

Their sparse event calendar proves it.

You cherry pick February and March as bustling times, but it is still left more than 50% EMPTY!

no money, but the expenses keep coming.

If a welfare dome that houses 2 hockey teams is vacant 60% if the time in the busiest season and completely dead the rest of the year..

...does it make financial sense?

No, it doesn't. That's why all these welfare domes are financial liabilities.

and that's back on topic. The welfare dome both in Soo, and the pie in the sky one here will be financial liabilities for the tax payers.

Soo, its about $600-700K each and every year.

Thunder Bay is hovering around $1.3 Million dollars each and every year. That money will come from the taxpaying citizens of this city.

all to subsidize some lame hockey team that will also take money from us.

and what do we get in return?
4/13/2014 5:50:04 PM
fastball says:
Well, they've got nothing listed in Sept and October, either. Perhaps they just haven't updated their calendar all the way yet.
I notice you didn't mention their February or March schedule...which was pretty well booked 15 days out of the 30. Nice cherrypick, though.
4/12/2014 12:30:01 AM
S Duncan says:
yes, April has 2 days for jr hockey playoffs, 2 days for greyhound playoffs booked, and 1 community Olympic celebration day booked.

Its just a bustling center of fiscal triumph!

Who is cherrypicking??...

If you can hear a pin drop in the place 325 days out of the year (and that's a realistic number) tell us, who is the real cherry picker?

Face it, its just another hockey rink. Check out their facebook page. Look at the photos of the playoffs! The place is EMPTY!! Go look, pictures don't lie.
4/12/2014 9:23:16 AM
Lpitura says:
The website is out of date. Fact is there are events going on there all the time, just a crappy website. I saw took my daughters to see cirque du soleil and Cats We have family near the so have been there lots and it's always busy with events, spots, markets, fairs, festivals and the like. Some big names have been there too: Jerry Seinfeld, Elton John, KISS, Mötley Crüe, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, Hilary Duff, Three Days Grace, Seether, Gordon Lightfoot, Blue Rodeo, Billy Talent, Alexisonfire, Against Me!, The Cancer Bats, The Used, Default, Jackyl, Slaughter, The Backstreet Boys, Girlicious, Blue Man Group, Charley Pride, Bryan Adams, Stompin' Tom Conners, Sheryl Crow, Anne Murray, INXS, The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, Down, Heaven & Hell, Megadeth, Jeff Dunham, and The Wiggles.
You should look up the term welfare as you are (over)using it incorrectly.

If you don't like it grow a pair of balls and actually do something productive to change it .
4/12/2014 1:58:46 AM
newguyintown says:
The circus is at Fort William Gardens...check out the city of Thunder Bay website...The Gardens doesn't have it's own webpage...

4/12/2014 7:11:49 AM
S Duncan says:
yet we still managed to host 80% of those bands/events without a new welfare dome.

If the city cant promote the Gardens properly and book events what makes you think we can fill up the welfare dome effectively?

I guess the city will have to hire more and more staff just to try and make this look even better huh?

More money down the tubes.
4/12/2014 9:16:24 AM
S Duncan says:
We cant fill up the Gardens as it is, even with small events..

..yet people are foolish enough to believe a new welfare dome in the north core will magically transform the city?

it will revive the district?


what's next? are they going to tell us it also "browns the food" and cures all that ails ya?
4/12/2014 9:52:33 AM
common cents says:
Jamie, could you please contact businesses around the newer arena in Moose Jaw?
4/11/2014 9:51:49 PM
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