Saskatoon is at the same crossroads it was almost 50 years ago to revitalize its downtown core, city officials say.
At the time, the revitalization included transforming the station into Midtown Plaza, with the opening of the Sid Buckwold Bridge and Meewasin becoming a reality.
Now, a new downtown arena, convention center and rapid transit bus system are priorities in making Saskatoon a destination city, officials said.
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A report presented to the Governance and Priorities Committee on April 19 indicates that these are key elements in ensuring a vibrant downtown in the future.
“The SaskTel Center and TCU Place are both nearing the end of their useful life and, without major renovations, cannot maintain the competitiveness of the market in their current state,” said Lesley Anderson, Director of Planning and development of the city, in a press release.
“Locating a new arena in the city center would have many mutual benefits for other major facilities such as the convention center and existing downtown attractions including restaurants, hotels and shops, creating the conditions of a fully bustling events and entertainment district.
TCU Place is over 50 years old and the SaskTel Center opened in 1988. The CEOs of both facilities have previously stated that they would prefer new facilities rather than improvements to existing buildings.
A reliable transit system must also be part of the downtown revitalization, said Dan Willems.
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“A bus rapid transit system, which has already received City Council approval, is integral to building a thriving and thriving entertainment district in downtown Saskatoon,” said Willems, Principal of the city’s technical services.
“Promoting a plan to provide basic entertainment amenities located downtown, supported by a fast and reliable transit system, will strengthen our position as a destination city.”
Other priorities listed in the report include upgrading roads, walking and cycling infrastructure, replacing the No. 1 fire station, promoting open-air festival venues along the shoreline, and reducing traffic. ‘roaming.
The city administration said it was exploring non-traditional ways to fund its vision while minimizing the reliance on property taxes.
The replacement cost for the SaskTel Center and TCU Place is estimated to be between $ 330 million and $ 375 million.
“This infrastructure will be the key to our sophistication and our strength as a destination,” Tourism Saskatoon CEO Steph Clovechok said Thursday. “It’s going to be amazing to see the quality of life that this brings.”
One of the funding options considered by the administration is the Investing in Canada infrastructure program.
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They’re also looking at other sources of revenue, such as taxes on hotel rooms and other short-term accommodation rentals, motor vehicle rental fees, and tax increase financing.
“The goal of this fundraising / funding strategy is to minimize property tax contributions to pay for all of the sub-projects within this transformation project. It also tries to improve equity by generating income for those who benefit from the amenities, especially non-residents who tend to benefit from tourism infrastructure, ”said Mike Jordan, head of public policy and government relations. from the city.
“However, achieving this result requires a substantial long-term investment and a partnership between the city, other levels of government and industry.”
Clovechok says the city’s tourism partners would like to be included in discussions on how to move forward and find funding.
“We need to be at the table and we will come up with creative solutions to make sure that this infrastructure is built, but we cannot be left out of this discussion just yet,” Clovechok said.
“I think right now we have creative solutions outside of a mandatory tax that would allow non-taxpayers’ money to be invested in this infrastructure.”
Ward 4 Coun. Troy Davies said after investigating other cities of similar size in Canada, it is not out of the question to introduce these “tourist taxes” as a viable option.
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“Other cities have had (this),” Davies said. “Whether it’s a supplement on rental vehicles, whether it’s an additional tax if someone comes to stay in our city in a hotel room and there are two or three dollars more for the entertainment district tax. ”
Davies adds that while a new arena and concert hall are unlikely to be needed for the next eight to ten years, planning needs to start now to ensure Saskatoon stays on the map.
“Ten years from now, we cannot be the city not to do concerts, because once that happens, we will never get them back,” he said.
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