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Saskatoon Mulls Arena Options

Saskatoon Blades

In planning a new arena and convention center, Saskatoon is considering several concepts, including one that effectively combines two facilities.

Currently there are a few options on the table for the respective board members of the SaskTel Centre and TCU Place. One is to undertake separate projects in different locations–with the convention center remaining downtown, and the arena developed elsewhere in the city–and other that places both venues downtown.

Some city officials are openly discussing a plan that could combine the two venues. With TCU Place continuing to attract conventions and performances to downtown Saskatoon, it could be joined in the area by the SaskTel Centre’s replacement, which would either be added to a convention center project or built at a very close location.

SaskTel Centre, which has been home to the Saskatoon Blades since it opened in 1988, was expanded in 2009, but city officials see the benefit in upgrading or replacing the facility in the near future. Though all options–including a renovation–are on the table, there is some local sentiment toward having both the arena and the convention center in the city’s downtown. More from The Star Phoenix:

SaskTel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl said a Saskatoon Regional Economic Development Authority (SREDA) analysis will be incorporated into the study. The SREDA analysis will look at the economic impact of SaskTel Centre both past and future and the projected impact if a new arena is built downtown.

“What’s the best future route?” Lofdahl asked in an interview Monday.
He pointed to a Mainstreet Research/Postmedia Network Inc. opinion poll conducted July 27 and 28 that showed 40 per cent of respondents wanted Saskatoon city council to explore a new downtown arena, while 35 per cent favoured a focus on renovations to SaskTel Centre.

The telephone poll of 803 people was considered accurate within 3.46 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Lofdahl noted that despite the split, 75 per cent of poll respondents favoured some sort of project.

“If we don’t do something, we’ll become a dinosaur, that’s for sure,” he said.

This project could take some time to come together, as the proposed joint study is not expected to have consultant until October. At this point, however, it is not surprising to see Suskatoon have this discussion. Cities such as Sudbury are currently mulling whether arenas are best when placed downtown or in another location, and Suskatoon will map out its course in determining whether the convention center and arena can coexist in the same area.

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