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Barrie city council considers $40M Sadlon Arena renovations

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The wheels are in motion for significant changes to Barrie's Sadlon Arena.

"If you want this arena to last another 25 years, 30 years, you'll have to at some point upgrade it because it will not meet the needs of the community," said Tourism Barrie Executive Director Kathleen Trainor.

Tourism Barrie brought a report from a consulting firm to council, recommending upgrades to the arena, including additional seats, modern concessions, and an open grand entrance on the building's north side.

"For the city, it would be great. I mean bringing more events into the city has a huge economic impact when you can bring more events in," said Barrie Colts Co-Owner Jim Payetta.

"Because you can bring in more concerts, more trade shows. There is fixing of some of the ways you can move around the arena. You can't move around the arena because of the restaurant here," said Trainor.

The complete preferred revamping of the arena, which opened in 1996, would cost around $40 million, but some say that money would be back in the local economy after one or two events.

"Skate Canada had a large event in London. The economic impact was $42.5 million. It's significant," said Ward 7 Councillor Gary Harvey.

"Five-thousand-seat concerts are profitable," stated Trainor.

There is no timeline yet on how long the renovations would take, but with smaller cities hosting just as many events as Barrie, the Colts have been eyeing change for nearly a decade.

"We put forth the idea back in 2014 after bidding on the Memorial Cup and learning about why we didn't get it after our fourth attempt and the shortcomings of the building," said Payetta.

The city of Brantford recently told the Hamilton Bulldogs it would cost them $135 million to build them a new arena. That won't be happening in Barrie anytime soon.

"We did have that discussion, and when the consultant advised us of the cost nowadays, that made that decision very quick and easy," laughed Harvey.

The proposed renovations would also provide improved dressing rooms, video rooms, training rooms and a gym. The Colts believe they are at a competitive and recruiting disadvantage without them.

"You don't see what's down below that the players and training staff are dealing with. It's not even close to being up to current day standards," explained Harvey.

In their current situation, Colts players have to go off-site to workout, which is not common practice across the Ontario Hockey League.

This week the women's national hockey teams for Germany and Switzerland were hosted in Barrie, but the teams had to be stationed at different arenas because Sadlon did not have enough rooms for them to leave all of their equipment.

"We need proper facilities here at the rink. We don't have a gym here right now. We don't have proper training facilities right now, a video room, all those things are kind of requirements now these days," added Payetta.

The arena renovation capital project wouldn't affect taxpayers as the financing would come from revenue streams like reserves and grants.

Council also has decisions to make on other capital projects being considered, like community centres and a new theatre. Harvey said his priority goes to return on investment.

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