Event centre designs, costs presented

A sports and entertainment complex in Nanaimo could cost $62-83 million, according to a study.

BUILDING a new Nanaimo sports and entertainment centre could cost $62-83 million dollars, a new study shows.

Toronto-based Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, hired by the City of Nanaimo, presented the first phase of a more than $240,000 study into a sports and entertainment centre, from where it could go to development costs and the market to support it.

The work, which began in September, comes after city council made a sports and entertainment centre a top priority in its strategic plan. A private ownership group behind Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel also announced plans this year to build a hotel and sports arena.

Gary Green, BBB Architects’ senior director, said Nanaimo is the only urban area in Western Canada without a modern event centre. His company sees a market north of the Malahat of 400,000 people who could fill seats and believes, based on ticket sale statistics from the Port Theatre and the size of the entertainment centre, it would attract 35 per cent or more from outside the Nanaimo regional district.

Concepts by BBB Architects show the centre could be a long house-inspired look, with a grass roof and covered plaza that would sit on city land on 1 Port Drive, or the Howard Johnson hotel property. Both sites are large enough, near public parking and the city’s downtown with space for new complementary development.

Consultants also considered but eliminated locations at Maffeo Sutton Park, Nanaimo Curling Centre and Serauxmen Stadium.

How much it costs to build the centre hinges on its features and size. The cheapest option is $62 million, a centre still built to house a Western Hockey League team, at 120,000 square feet and 5,200 seats, but one that would have minimal facilities for travelling shows. At the highest end is a one-of-a-kind, $83-million centre with an environmental showcase and more seats to accommodate concert and hockey spectators, more multi-purpose rooms and a requirement for more guest services. It would also have a concourse, restaurant and bar, private boxes and suites and an 800-seat club.

What’s not known is how the facility will be paid for and who will build it.

There’s also a breadth of events the centre could host, but BBB Architects sees a WHL franchise as critical.

The league would offer social and economic benefits from ticket sales, spending at games and corporate sponsorships. It would also put Nanaimo on the map and provides an anchor tenant with at least 36 home games.

“If you can acquire a major tenant you are never all of a sudden going to take those number of events and being able to find that many concerts or other shows that would come in and replace that,” said Green.

The City of Nanaimo will seek public input on the entertainment centre report, such as views on the two proposed locations, the vision for the centre and reaction to council’s commitment to move forward with a facility like this one.

“I say park the old-fashioned ideas of what Nanaimoites have been arguing for decades at the door. This is something different. This is an event centre, cultural, multi-cultural,” said Tracy Samra, city chief administrative officer. She said there could be art exhibits and cultural meetings, powwows, dance- and drum-offs, or the Snuneymuxw might build a long house and fires outside.

“This is something that can be designed in a way that can give to everyone in this community. It can even have monster truck stuff if that’s what people want,” Samra said.

She also said there’s a commitment to involve people.

“The only way we are going to succeed is to convince and get a buy-in from a big-enough mass within this community that this is something that they want and they want to invest in,” she said.

A public information meeting will be held Nov. 24, from 6-8 p.m. in the Beban Park social centre. A second phase of study will involve formalized meetings with the WHL, a more detailed technical review of the top two sites and more detailed concept design and capital cost estimate, with a report to council Dec. 19.