Vancouver has gone through some questionable development proposals including casino and soccer stadium uses right on the downtown waterfront.These can be located anywhere, and it seemed strange to consider uses that would not take advantage of the extraordinary waterfront views. Well now it is Nanaimo’s turn. As reported by CBC a huge complex that could sport a World Hockey League team and rock concerts will be voted on by residents on March 11. Voters will be asked to approve $80 million dollars in borrowing, with 69.8 million to be spent on the centre, and close to 10 million being spent to clean up the waterfront location and to upgrade utilities. The site, located at One Port Drive is on the south side of Nanaimo’s downtown, is a last remnant of waterfront and has a mining and industrial use history.
In addition, 5.4 million dollars will be need to annually service the debt-this apparently is not going to result in increased property taxes. Of the 7 million dollars collected by Nanaimo Council for capital projects it is expected that two million dollars will be needed to annually service the debt.
The Yes for Nanaimo Event Centre group thinks that once the arena is built, it will house a sports team and will fill up with name events and concerts and recoup the money. It is seen as a catalyst for development in the community. The NoVote2017 factions says the building is in the wrong place, takes away a view and will result increased property taxes and municipal debt. As one proponent noted “construction of the building could balloon to hundreds of millions of dollars and borrowing that amount of money will result “in serious consequences” for a city the size of Nanaimo. And these consequences will be carried by Nanaimo residents, forcing us to make tough choices about critical infrastructure and cut services to pay for the arena and service that debt.”
The World Hockey League also influenced voters by announcing this week that they would commit to bring a team if the arena was built. It can seem surprising that a Council would be willing to underwrite such a large expenditure without a guaranteed income. Price Tags will be watching to see whether voters approve this huge amount of borrowing.