Arena opening about three years away
The funding was announced with great fanfare in Conception Bay South in early September, and makes $21,470,000 available to the town for the new arena.
Mayor Coombs stressed during the public council meeting, “that means up to that amount — it doesn’t mean we have to spend (that amount).”
The province would provide 80 per cent, or about $ 15,200,000, while the town would be responsible for the remaining 20 per cent, or roughly $3,800,000.
But that’s only if the maximum amount is spent.
Coombs believes an arena can be built for far less, at between $12 and $15 million.
The mayor pointed out that would reduce the town’s share to an amount it could afford to finance.
Because an arena is considered a generator of HST revenue, Coombs also noted the town would be eligible for a full HST tax rebate at 13 per cent.
“Do I think the town is going to take on a $3.8 million debt load on its own on a $21 million facility? No I don’t. Right now, to say the Town of Harbour Grace is going to go out and spend $21,470,000 — it’s not going to happen,” he said.
“We don’t need a $ 21- million facility. Can we afford less? I think so.”
Unl ike Murphy, Coombs believes it’s time for a new arena.
“If we don’t take this new facility, I’m sure the old stadium is going to fall down eventually and then it’s gone,” Coombs said.
Towns with populations over 3,000 are responsible for 20 per cent of the cost of such facilities under the current cost-sharing formula with the province. If the population of Harbour Grace, which is currently just barely over 3,000, were to dip under that mark, the town would only be responsible for 10 per cent of the cost.
When the results of the next national census comes out in 2012, Coombs said the town will be “laughing”‘ if its population is below 3,000.
If the new arena were to end up costing $15 million, he said, “at 10 per cent, that’s $ 1.5 million we’d have to come up with.
Coombs said potential buyers for the current stadium have already expressed an interest.
“Say if we got three quarters of a million for the old place. And we got another $ 250,000 in the new boards, glass and any other materials that could be used from the old stadium in the new, the town could end up having to finance half a million dollars over 20 years or 40 years. That’s not bad. That’s controllable.”
Coombs said the town will press to have its share of the project reduced to 10 per cent.
“We have to do a selling job with government,” he said.
Coombs offered reassurances that the town will not recklessly push ahead without ensuring the project is viable.
He said the province and lending institutions will closely analyze whether the town can afford its share.
“We are not allowed to borrow a cent without governm ent approval,” Coombs said.
Meanwhile, the corner of Harvey Street West and Jamie’s Way is still the preferred site for the proposed new arena, but that location is not cast in stone, Coombs explained.
“Government engineers would like to have three to four sites to look at as options, but we don’t have a lot of sites in Harbour Grace,” the mayor said.
He said one obstacle with the preferred site is the old railway bed, which dissects the property.
“That’s something we would have to deal with,” he said.
Suggesting the opening of the new arena is still about three years down the road, Coombs said, “we had to get the ball rolling.” And last week’s vote to accept the funding was another step in that direction.
“You’re going to see a new stadium coming into the region in the very near future. It’s needed not only for sports, but for trade shows, concerts … everything.
“We just bought the puzzle, now we’ve got to put the pieces together.”