ST. JOHN’S, NL – It’s been a tough financial year for the City of St. John’s and in turn, the Mile One Centre. The city posted a $20 million dollar (CAN) deficit in the recent fiscal year, which under Canadian law, cities cannot finish with a deficit, thus turning to the provincial government.
When the city broke ground on the arena in 1998, it cost nearly $20 million. Over 20 years later, Newfoundland Growlers owner Dean MacDonald has plans to add a $25 million upgrade that includes a sports bar, theatre, office space, roofing, HVAC install, and more. One that could come to fruition – if he could purchase Mile One Centre.
MacDonald has been pressing elected officials for a meeting since March.
Currently, the City of St. John’s pays a subsidy to Deacon Sports and Entertainment, amounting over $3 million. With the arena sitting empty to due COVID-19 and no return date set for sports, it’s costing the city $1.77 million each month.
In light of recent events, the city opted to cut corners along the way, turning down a $1.3 million sidewalk snow clearing proposal. The move is one that MacDonald says he has the solution to.
“The city can’t spend 1.3 million bucks on plowing the sidewalk,” MacDonald told the CBC. “And we’re saying, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to save you three million,’ and that conversation isn’t happening. That’s a dereliction of duty, quite frankly.”
The city of St. John’s said not so fast, Mr. MacDonald. Councillor Jamie Korab told the media Thursday they have yet to hear from Macdonald and says that there are still a few things that need to be put in place before purchasing the arena.
“As it sits right now, there’s no for sale sign on the building,” Korab said. “If we were to sell the building, there’s a number of unknowns. Do we continue to pay a subsidy? Are we going to contribute to capital costs? In five, 10 years time, and it’s no longer viable for the purchaser, what then?”
The city is also concerned about whether they’ll have an arena if they choose to have events of their own or anything else. Letting go of Mile One will mean that any events happening at Mile One will have to go through MacDonald. The 2017 Tim Hortons Brier brought over $10 million of economic activity to the city.
Korab said Thursday he has to give every company a fair chance of bidding on the arena.
“If we were to engage now with one potential owner, we could unfairly disadvantage a competitive bidding process,” Korab told The Telegram. “So, we will not be meeting with Mr. MacDonald or any other potential owner for Mile One.”
To which MacDonald responded with:
“We’re not planning on flattening the place and putting up condo’s, we want more entertainment.”
For now, the city has hired a consulting group to advise on the project and potentially what’s next for Mile One Centre. With no sports ready to hit the grounds of North America’s oldest city, the fate of Mile One is left in the air.
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