Study commissioned to look at potential for City of Nanaimo-owned multiplex

NANAIMO – New study, budgeted at $65,000, looks at procurement options for new sports and entertainment centre.

The City of Nanaimo hasn’t ruled out going it alone with a sports and entertainment centre in a new feasibility and options study that’s now underway.

The city is looking at options on how to provide a sports and entertainment centre, considered a key capital project for city politicians in an updated strategic plan.

The study has a budget of $65,000 and will look at “procurement options” for the centre, including if it can be done by the city itself, according to Victor Mema, chief financial officer for the city.

It got underway after council agreed in September to put $200,000 toward preparatory work for its strategic priorities and is expected to be completed in the next 45 to 60 days.

“Since council has said they want an event centre, that’s a product they want, how best can that be provided?” Mema asked. “Can this be done by the city itself, can this be done by a sitting partnership with somebody else, can this be done by the private sector?”

The ownership group behind the Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel previously announced plans for a hotel and sports arena in Nanaimo, and with the city naming such a facility a priority, hotel general manager Dan Brady previously told the News Bulletin the company is looking for clarification on what that means. No meeting has been held with the city yet to discuss project details.

Work on the site has moved ahead, with the licence for the liquor store now moved to Brooks Landing shopping centre and recent meetings with representatives from Marriott hotels, Hilton hotels and Wyndham hotels about what ‘franchise flag’ to fly on the hotel.

Brady said things are going ahead “very quickly,” but he also said the feasibility study will have an effect in a big way, whether it says the Howard Johnson is the worst site or a great one.

Brady encourages the city to sit down with the company.

“I think the city needs to have that feasibility report back before they can actually sit down with a comfort level,” said Brady, whose hope is the study suggests some form of partnership with private enterprise. “I don’t think they are ever going to enter into a straight-up partnership like you would think, a 50-50. It could be that maybe we build it with another partner on our end and the city comes in and helps us with some sort of leasing of ice time or dry floor time and helping us relocate some of these services.”

The city also looked into a multiplex in 2013, how other mid-sized multiplexes in B.C. function, how much they cost and how they’re operated. CEI Architecture advised at the time a 5,000 seat facility with parking would cost around $50 million depending on the site, land and servicing costs. The staff report noted many mid-sized event centres, even with an anchor tenant like a WHL team, were not meeting their objectives for event and concert booking.