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Letter to the editor: Concerns regarding the push for construction of a new indoor turf facility

A letter sent to the members of city council regarding the push for the construction of a new indoor turf facility.
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Letters to the editor

To the editor:

I am taking this opportunity to write to you to express my dismay at your decision to forge ahead with the new soccerplex at your Aug. 10 council meeting.
Please don’t get me wrong I am not against new space for indoor soccer but there are a myriad of reasons why the city should not be proceeding with this project not only at this present time but if ever and definitely not in the form that is currently planned.

First off a private developer has already spent a large sum of their own money to purchase and develop a site to build their own indoor facility.  Not only is this development privately funded, it also has plans for an additional facility as well as a hotel. This would all be privately funded and would generate tax revenue to the city rather than being a burden and ongoing expense to the taxpayers of Thunder Bay. Why would council want to compete with the private sector and most likely drive this development out of the city?  Why would someone pour millions of their own dollars into a facility knowing that a good share of their potential market will flock to a taxpayer subsidized and most likely cheaper venue?

Second how can you in good conscience commit such a large amount of money to a project when the city has not even gotten an accurate and final accounting of the cost of COVID-19 yet? City administration recommended that council defer a decision on this project until November of next year.  Why the rush to plunge into such a large commitment right now? Will this affect the City’s position to receive future aid from the Provincial and Federal government? What are the optics of such a decision at this time?  Is the city doing that well that we would forgo any new monies coming into the city in terms of aid? Why are you not waiting for some funding commitments from Federal or Provincial sources. Are you going to close the door to any funding by tendering and awarding the work before any funding decisions are made? Have an operational plan and budget been put together for once this facility is open? Besides the long term debt you are committing the taxpayers of Thunder to for construction what is the annual operating loss expected to be?

Thirdly, why is it necessary to build such an expensive facility? If, as our Mayor and soccer Northwest states, there is such a lack of available indoor space why are you committing to build such a relatively small facility? The City of Edmonton just opened the largest indoor turf facility in Canada at the fiscally responsible cost of $7 million dollars. Why are you committing the city to a facility that is going to cost six times as much (I realize the construction cost is ‘only’ $33 million but I believe the ‘final’ cost of $42 million including financing) and yet have less than one half the available turf area? What is wrong with a more fiscally responsible dome type structure? Yes, the operating costs may be higher but you can build a new dome every 20 years into eternity for the same cost of the more glamourous facility you want to commit the taxpayers of Thunder Bay to today.

I am imploring you to take a look at the facts and perhaps think for a moment about the tax base of Thunder Bay. Our industries are closing down and leaving, Bombardier and Resolute are on borrowed time and the inhabitants of the city deserve some fiscally responsible management to try and mitigate the rate increases going forward. My three sons all played indoor soccer and I agree that we need some facilities for them to play in but we cannot afford a Taj Mahal type facility as a legacy to our current council and mayor. I have talked to many friends and associates and while the majority do agree with some sort of indoor soccer they also believe the private sector could and will provide this or that we cannot afford to spend such a large amount of money on having the city provide one.

Remember that the people you work for are watching and will remember you and your decisions when the time comes for you to re-apply for your jobs on city council. Fiscal responsibility and prudent financial decisions will not be one of the items you could campaign on come 2022 if you stick with your current decision on this facility.

Regards,

Jim Moshonsky, P. Eng.

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