Indoor Turf Facility – “Transparency is important in a project of this size”

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500 Donald Street East - Thunder Bay City Hall
500 Donald Street East - Thunder Bay City Hall

THUNDER BAY – OPINION – In November, Council ratified a decision to move forward with a $38 million financing plan for a new indoor turf facility.  This latest iteration of the facility is modelled on a proposal brought forward by members of the soccer community that was to cost on the order of only $20 million.

It is important to note that $38 million financing plan recently approved by Council does not include all costs needed for the creation of the indoor turf facility.  The following costs will be in addition to the financing plan:

  • Site development:  $3 million.
  • The relocation of an existing baseball field at the Auditorium:  $0.4 million.
  • The creation of required additional parking:  $0.4 million.
  • Studies completed for the Auditorium site in the Fall of 2024:  $0.2 million.
  • Other required building equipment: $0.5 million.
  • Interest costs on loaned money for the project:  $7 million.

The immediate additional costs of $4.5 million could push the total price tag of the turf facility to $42.5 million.  When long term interest costs are included, the expenditure on the turf facility nears $50 million.

My concern is that Council may now be on a path that is very similar to the one taken four years ago when a turf facility, to be located at Chapple’s Park, failed to materialize due to a final cost that was too high to gain support in the community.  That initiative cost taxpayers approximately one million dollars and countless hours of staff time.  Now, more money and resources will be spent designing a new concept for the Auditorium site that may also fail to achieve public support due to its high cost.

So how did we get here?  I believe that some members of Council supported the $38 million financing plan in the hopes that the facility will cost far less than that when the bids are opened if the project is tendered.  These hopes are not supported by the advice received from administration who continue to advise that $38 million facility design will more than likely cost that amount when the bids are opened.  Time will tell.

Transparency is important in a project of this size.  I felt it important that the community be aware of all costs needed for the current project so that informed input can be provided to Council prior to the next decision point.  The next step in the process will be a decision to move forward with tendering the project; that decision is currently scheduled to be made in March 2024.

Mark Bentz
Councillor at Large

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