A review into the future of SaskTel Centre is set to move ahead after a city committee showed support Monday.
The Governance and Priorities Committee unanimously received the SaskTel board’s recommendation that it conduct a market analysis on the 28-year-old facility.
Since the board wasn’t asking for money from the city, it doesn’t need council’s approval to go ahead with the report; however, executive officer Will Lofdahl said it was good to know they have the committee’s support.
“It’s critical to lay out ground to decide what our direction is,” he said. “Without a good map, we don’t know where we’re going.”
The board will now put out a request for proposals within the next two weeks, and a full report is expected to take eight months to a year, Lofdahl said.
The report is expected to answer several key questions including the viability of the current building, whether renovations are possible and recommended, or whether a new facility is needed and where it should go.
While several councillors have already expressed support for a downtown arena, many cautioned against getting ahead of the study.
Saskatoon is among three North American cities with arenas outside their downtown areas, including San Antonio and Ottawa, according to Lofdahl.
Lofdahl said the “clock is ticking” on the new facility regardless of how well it is maintained.
“If you had a 1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and you put in a new engine and new upholstery, and new tires what have you got? You’ve got a 1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo,” he said.
This concerned Coun. Randy Donauer, who said he doesn’t want the city to feel the need to build a new arena every few decades.
He recommended that as the report explores the possibility of a new arena, it should also examine how a new building could be built to accommodate future expansions.
Coun. Darren Hill and Coun. Charlie Clark both support a downtown arena, but also want the report to examine alternate funding models to lighten the city’s financial burden.
“I certainly am hearing from a number of citizens of Saskatoon that they’re a little ‘large capital project’ gun shy at the moment, and want to ensure we’re looking at different and new funding models in the event a new arena is going to be built,” Hill said.
The SaskTel report was included among discussions of the city’s growth plan to half a million residents.
Councillors also voted to approve the growth plan in principle, despite lingering concerns about a possible 33rd Street bridge.