Howard Johnson Hotels is pushing forward a proposal to build a multimillion-dollar hotel and sports arena multiplex that could start construction by the end of 2016.
The former Tally Ho Hotel was bought in 1995 to build a conference centre, which was passed up in favour of the site now occupied by the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
This latest proposal was sparked by interest shown by the Western Hockey League in possibly bringing a second team to the Island, but also because the hotel’s parent company has subsidized the hotel’s operations for the last 18 years.
“This is probably our third or fourth version of trying to figure out what to do for redeveloping this site,” said Dan Brady, who manages Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotels in Nanaimo and Victoria.
Brady now has to gauge public support for the project, which is being called the Millstone Gateway.
Brady and hotel owner Brian Martin pitched the proposal to Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay and senior city staff on Friday. Brady said he came away from Friday’s meeting feeling good and that the city appears to support the proposal.
The corporation has already purchased surrounding properties for the project, which would include a 5,000-seat arena and six-storey, 166-room hotel on about three hectares along the Millstone River near Comox Road and Terminal Avenue.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said the city wants to see the company gauge public opinion on the project by putting up a website containing a frequently asked questions section.
“I think it’s exciting,” McKay said. “I really like the idea that there’s no public funding required. They might ask us to move some sewer lines, but that’s it.”
Brady said having a second WHL team on the Island represents cost savings for the league to bring teams across the strait, but the league has not indicated it is ready to locate a team in Nanaimo.
Brady also said the existing Howard Johnson is old and needs to be replaced.
“We needed to have that meeting on Friday,” Brady said. “Now we’ll start moving forward. Timetable? It would be nice if we were getting going within the next 18 months.”