North York community council is finally getting down to choosing a site for a new arena for Don Mills.
With Don Mills Civitan arena slated to close in 2020 and after months of deferral while alternatives were being considered, reps are to look at sites on June 13 from a shortlist recommended by parks staff.
Everyone involved is eager to get the ball rolling after long and frustrating delays.
“We just can’t seem to get it over the finish line, ” says Peter MacInnis, secretary for the Don Mills Civitan Community Service Club, which is based in the arena and runs the Civitan hockey league.
Parks staff first presented to community council a shortlist of sites last August, with the northwest corner of York Mills Road and the Don Valley Parkway as the lead contender, followed by the parcel of land next to the Ontario Science Centre, at Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue E.
Another alternative, not included on the staff list but which may be considered by council, was presented earlier this year by the Don Mills Residents Inc., who proposed the field next to Norman Ingram Public School at Duncairn Park.
But Don Mills president Terry West admits the plan may be too costly.
“If it was to be built on this site, it would cost a fair amount because the parking would have to be underground,” West said.
Cost for a new arena anywhere is a huge impediment as there are few dedicated funds for the facility, estimated to cost about $30 million.
At least $4.5 million is expected from developer Cadillac Fairview, obligated to contribute toward an arena as part of an agreement with the city for a condominium and townhouse complex in the area.
Other than that, there is currently no funding earmarked for the project. To that end, there have been suggestions the city explore a public-private partnership to build the facility.
West is wary of what effect such a partnership could ultimately have on community groups that use the facility.
“Always in the end it tends to become much more expensive, because obviously, if a private individual is going to put money into an arena, they want a return on their money.”
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong says the city has always considered the possibility of a private partnership.
“There’s no money in the capital budget to build a twin-pad ice rink,” he said. “It was always contemplated to bring in outside expertise, knowledge and skill. This is nothing new.”
He added his expectation would be a private deal would include restrictions on user fees for the arena.
The Ward 34 rep also said his preference would be to identify the three sites —York Mills, Ingram school field and the Science Centre — in a request for proposals to gauge community partnership interest, non-profit or private.
“We’ll invite them all to come forward and we’ll select the best one,” he said.
Other local reps are eager to see the project move ahead.
“It’s a matter that can’t be put off indefinitely,” said Councillor John Parker. “At some point, a decision needs to be made and we need to get going on a new proposal.”
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