The debate currently underway on the wisdom of constructing a new arena facility or upgrading the current Memorial and Erickson arenas is one that is rife with questions, including the big one – can Chatham-Kent taxpayers afford it?
Items for consideration could make a list a kilometre long. To start, the where is a huge unknown. Anyone who has lived in Chatham for years knows that the former Navistar land on Richmond Street West is very, very likely a brownfield site due to the chemicals used in the truck production facility. The soil needs to be tested before that site is even considered as a contender. Also, if Navistar still owns the property, would they be willing to sell and for how much?
Now, here come the “ifs.” If the soil is contaminated, who will pay for the clean up and at what cost? If it’s not contaminated, will Navistar even sell it?
Next item up for consideration is how big will the facility be? Twin pad ice surface or one 2,200 seat facility? Make it user friendly for other sports or stick to hockey/figure skating/curling uses? Add in a train/bus station or leave it just as a recreation facility?
How about making an arena grand enough to lure an OHL team to town – do you find big corporate sponsors or keep ownership municipal?
As stated, however, all this dreaming is dead in the water unless the municipality finds a way to pay for it without condemning our children’s children to still be paying for this 25 years from now. Is it likely this Ford government and/or the feds would put in a portion of the cost and if so, how much?
Until the cost issue is nailed down, taxpayers should be leery of saying yes or no to the proposal without a lot more information put forth.
It makes sense to find out if we can even get the land, free of toxic chemicals, and can pay for it before we start designing a facility.
Taxpayers’ ability to pay should be the first and foremost consideration of each and every council member before any decisions are made. The days of “build it and hopefully they will come” are long over in Chatham-Kent and we implore council to think long and hard about the long term.