Downtown arena plan concerns Saskatoon Heritage Society

Posted on November 20, 2018 in ,

Downtown arena plan concerns Saskatoon Heritage Society

Council gives official endorsement of plan for downtown replacement for SaskTel Centre

The Saskatoon Heritage Society wants any plans for a downtown arena to consider infrastructure with historical value.

Society president Peggy Sargeant appeared before city council on Monday, prior to the expected approval of a process to study a new downtown arena and convention centre.

Sargeant noted that several considerations were listed as part of the process approved in principle by council last week.

“Heritage should be up there,” Sargeant said. “It’s a fundamental element.”

Council approved moving forward with focusing on a new downtown arena and convention centre and abandoning major renovations to suburban SaskTel Centre and the TCU Place convention centre downtown.

“I think heritage is an essential pillar,” Coun. Cynthia Block said.

Council ultimately split over how to reflect heritage considerations in the process.

Coun. Hilary Gough wanted to add “heritage resource consideration” to a list of other stakeholders and considerations, but council voted 6-5 to eliminate the list entirely.

“We have an extensive list,” Coun. Troy Davies said. “But someone’s going to feel left out.”

In addition to focusing on a new arena and convention centre, including a possible combined facility, council backed finding the best location for an entertainment district to surround any new facilities.

City administration is also tasked with figuring out how such a district would fit into a “wider vision for a strong downtown.”

Sargeant asked about the Saskatoon City Centre Plan, which was endorsed by council five years ago as an effort to take steps to keep the downtown strong and vital. The city’s director of planning and development, Lesley Anderson, said the City Centre Plan will remain a “foundational document” in planning for new facilities.

While the heritage community appears skeptical of council’s direction, the business community seems supportive.

Andrew Shaw, the North Saskatoon Business Association’s research and policy analyst, said council’s embrace of new downtown facilities has “captured the imagination of many of our membership.”

Shaw applauded council’s decision to try to find funding for new facilities that will minimize the use of property tax as a source.

“It’s very encouraging to see a city council taking a long-term planning approach to these projects,” Shaw said.

A combined downtown arena and convention centre is estimated to cost between $330 million and $375 million, making it perhaps the most expensive infrastructure project in the city’s history.

City of Saskatoon administrative staff have said the city will not be able to fund new facilities on its own.

Coun. Sarina Gersher alone voted against studying a new downtown arena and convention centre.

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