March 5, 2021
Mayor and Council
City of Thunder Bay
Dear Mayor Mauro and Members of Council:
INDOOR SPORTS FACILITY CONCERNS
The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is concerned with the recommendation contained in Report R 9/2021 to award a tender for the construction of the Thunder Bay Multi-Use Indoor Sports Facility at a projected cost of $37 million.
The serious challenges faced by many local businesses due to the pandemic have been worsened due to the increased spread of the virus in our community. The promise of better days in 2021 has not yet been realized as hundreds of businesses have been required by the Province to close or significantly reduce services during the six-week province-wide shutdown and again under the current Grey-Lockdown framework. Federal and Provincial Government supports are helpful and appreciated but will not compensate for the magnitude of revenue losses across our business community. Businesses are and will continue to permanently close as a result.
City Council is facing numerous other high-cost priority items including replacement of the police station; guns, gangs and drug enforcement; the lack of affordable housing; legal challenges related to pinhole leaks across the city; the demolition of Victoriaville; and mandated organics waste collection. Further, the Chamber continues to share the concerns about project timing that were outlined by City Manager Norm Gale in his August 2020 letter to City Council, including: the lack of external funding to support the project; the recommendation of the Grant Thornton Program and Services Review to rationalize city owned facilities; and uncertainty about the City’s future financial position due to COVID-19.
We are also disappointed by the lack of transparency regarding the projected annual operating revenues and expenses for the indoor turf facility. Administration has refused to disclose the pro-forma analysis that suggests the facility would break-even or possibly provide a small surplus. Further, we continue to be concerned with the limited scope of the proposed facility to support broader community events and activities.
We are facing a slow economic recovery and myriad other costly priorities. As a result, there is limited support within the business community at this time for a new sports facility that will increase taxes and limit municipal fiscal capacity for decades to come. The Chamber does not support the project proceeding at this time.
c. Norm Gale, City Manager