Should Saskatoon build a new arena downtown? Age-old debate renewed as consultant examines best options
Posted on March 14, 2017 in In the Media
A debate over SaskTel Centre’s location has been going on for decades in Saskatoon and may heat up again.
‘Saskatoon is the best city on the Prairies and we just have to get with the program.’ – Pat Lorje
A Toronto consultant has been hired to look at the future of the rink, and of the aging TCU Place convention centre downtown, with a report expected this year.
With the two facilities showing their age, there is talk again of bringing the arena downtown. The decision on the current location — in the Agriplace Industrial Park near the city’s northern entrance — was made by voters in a plebiscite.
“Everything that I predicted would go wrong has gone wrong,” said former city councillor Pat Lorje in an interview today on CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning.
“For some reason the provincial government of the day and many businesses — the local businessmen, the movers and shakers of the day — decided that it would be best if it would be located, as I describe it, halfway to North Battleford.”
Traffic a huge issue with current location
At the core of what’s gone wrong over the last 29 years is that a lot of drivers have been stuck in a lot of traffic jams, doing a lot of cursing.
‘I was a young naive kid off the farm.’– Keith Moen
“You could jog out there faster,” Lorje joked, adding that “people get angry and frustrated trying to leave.”
Keith Moen, now the executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association, was a young man when the decision on the arena’s location was made. He says he voted to keep the arena out of the downtown.
“I must confess that I was a young naive kid off the farm and didn’t really have a grasp of economic development and things the way that I do now.”
Moen believes that the position he took at that time was a mistake. His association — one of the movers and shakers that Lorje said helped tip the scale — may also have had a change of heart.
“My sense is that we would likely be in favour of a downtown location,” said Moen.
There is plenty of time for the downtown arena debate to heat up again. All that’s happened so far is the hiring of a consultant to look at the options for the future of not just SaskTel Centre, but also TCU Place, and where they should be located.
Lorje picks downtown.
“Saskatoon is the best city on the Prairies and we just have to get with the program.”