Editorial: Multiplex study only so helpful

A feasibility and options study is underway to look into ways the city might go about providing a sports and entertainment centre.

The City of Nanaimo will find out if prioritizing a multiplex will get a rousing ovation.

A feasibility and options study is underway to look into different ways the municipality might go about providing a sports and entertainment centre. City council decided earlier this year that a multiplex was one of its capital priorities and set aside money last month for this sort of preparatory work.

Although owners of the Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel have already pitched plans for a multiplex at that site, the city will study alternatives, too, and consider different levels of public-private partnership.

A sports and entertainment complex is almost an expected amenity in a city the size of Nanaimo, but whether it should be is another matter.

A multiplex would be a wonderful asset to our city and would open up new possibilities for events the likes of which we haven’t seen here. We’d be treated to more popular music acts and could accommodate a major junior hockey team, pro hockey camps, perhaps a national curling tournament.

Of course, there are no assurances about the events that would come to town and anchor tenants don’t always last. Much would depend on the diligence of the facility managers, and we’ve had, arguably, an underwhelming experience with that kind of arrangement at the conference centre.

The last time the city looked into a multiplex was 2013, and a staff report flagged some concerns about the performance of mid-size event centres in comparable communities.

A problem with the feasibility portion of this 2016 study is that council has already decided that a multiplex is one of its priorities, so it’s fair to wonder if the purpose of this exercise is to provide justification after the fact.

A sports and entertainment centre would revitalize the downtown in a way that no other project can. The rewards could be great. We trust those rewards will be sought while minimizing risks for taxpayers when it comes to this big-ticket item.

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