Before being elected, Mayor Greg Dionne was outside of the Art Hauser Centre telling the public he wanted to see a new recreational multiplex facility in Prince Albert to take the city into the future.
Now, only a few months after the election, he is researching that option by heading out on a tour of new multiplex facilities around Saskatchewan.
“For our market to grow some people believe we need a new facility, some people believe that we don’t, so that’s why we’re not committing to anything, we’re just going out on an information gathering,” Dionne said.
The first stop is Moose Jaw’s Mosaic Place. The idea to go there was presented by the Raiders’ board, which is looking into getting a new arena.
“We had had discussion at the Raiders board meeting and came up with the idea that it would be a good idea to go down to Moose Jaw … get a bit of an introduction and a bit of presentation from their hockey club and certainly their council on what kind of impact the new arena has had on their hockey and what kind of impact it has on the city,” said Raiders president Dale McFee, and added a new a new arena is something the hockey club will need at some point in the future for the team to remain viable.
Dionne along with Raiders’ board members, local business owners and councillors have scheduled the tour for Feb. 12 — the same night the Raiders play against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“We thought if we’re ever going to do that, you know because it’s in an exploratory phase, it’s important to invite city officials to that meeting and maybe even some members of the community and let’s just have a look. There’s no cost in looking,” McFee said.
“We see this time as a bit of blue sky plan. It’s not a panic; we’re not looking for an arena tomorrow, but I think at the end of day as the competitiveness of the Western Hockey League continues to grow and certainly the Raiders being a staple of Prince Albert and certainly one of the most recognizable things about our city and it’s important that we protect that.”
According to McFee, part of that protection is doing their homework to see which facilities work and why, and if it will bring in revenue.
He said they know a new arena is not just going to impact the hockey club, but also the city.
Dionne agrees, which is why he wants to look at not only a new rink, but a facility that would include other amenities like a pool. He said most of the people he has talked to from the community want a multiplex.
“They don’t want us to build a one service thing and that seems to be that all cities are going to multiplexes … so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel we’re going to try and see what works,” Dionne said.
Should a multiplex go forward in the future he said it could replace much of the Art Hauser Centre.
Even with the $3.5-million upgrade to the front lobby area of the facility, one of the reasons for a new arena comes from the WHL who will not give a new franchise unless the rink can hold around 4,500. The Raiders have not given the city a timeframe, but Dionne believes the hockey team needs growth to stay competitive in the WHL.
“We do know they’re under a pinch and they want to see 4,500 seats, but at the same time we’re saying to them ‘well hang on, we as a city may want to go to 6,000 seats.’ We’re in discussions with an entertainment group that supplies Sask Place and a few other ones because if you’re going to go to a big expense, and it’s a big ticket item, you better build it for the future,” Dionne said, which could bring in big concerts that could generate more revenue.
Another aspect that could bring in revenue for a new multiplex is a pool. When looking at other cities and their recreational facilities Dionne said these are always popular.
“One thing we do know is very popular from talking to our citizens [is] any new pool concept we build in the future will have a wave pool. It’s more recreational and if you ever go to the Palace in Melfort, it’s populated by people from PA,” Dionne explained, adding other facilities also have a river and splash park.
“Any new build you have to build you have to look at the revenue side of it first because that’s what it’s about because cities cannot continue to subsidize these facilities at the rate they do.”
However, before any decisions are made, Dionne and council will be doing extensive research. Their tour of facilities will include those in Yorkton and North Battleford.
If a new facility is in the future for Prince Albert, Dionne said the city will look for funding from all levels of government and then to the public.
On Twitter: @sarahstone84
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