CBRM council decides against selling Centre 200 arena in Sydney

Cape Breton regional councillors have voted down the idea of selling the Centre 200 arena in Sydney, N.S., saying the potential costs would outweigh any benefits. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Cape Breton regional councillors have voted down the idea of selling the Centre 200 arena in Sydney, N.S., saying the potential costs would outweigh any benefits. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality has decided against selling the Centre 200 arena in Sydney, N.S.

Back in the spring, council asked staff to look at the pros and cons of privatizing the 5,000-seat building, which was built in 1986 at a cost of roughly $14 million.

A report presented to council this week says selling it would provide a one-time injection of cash and create some cost savings in maintenance and staffing.

But the report, written by facilities manager Paul MacDonald, says the list of liabilities is longer.

The arena brings in between $1.2 million and $1.5 million in revenue annually, he told council, but it ultimately costs CBRM that much to operate every year.

However, it also attracts larger events that bring in visitors who support local hotels and restaurants and buy goods and services.

Coun. Steve Gillespie said it was "ridiculous" to consider selling the building in the first place.

"Our police department loses money. Our fire department loses money. Our transit department loses money," he said. "These are services that we supply to the municipality and they're services that are important not only to ... living here, but with Centre 200, the economic spinoff from the events."

MacDonald said the building was appraised three years ago and valued at roughly $19 million.

That assessment also listed the replacement cost at roughly $37 million, but MacDonald said those numbers are out of date.

If the municipality for some reason had to build a new arena, it would likely cost between $80 million and $100 million, based on the recent price tag of a new rink in Moncton.

A number of local groups rely on the arena for events and it's impossible to predict what a new owner might charge, MacDonald said.

CBRM also uses the rink and would have to pay the going rate if it was privatized and some larger events might take a pass, hurting the local economy.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

In addition, the federal and provincial governments have recently rejected funding applications for capital improvements and repairs because the arena might be sold, he said.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said that's one reason to keep the arena in public hands.

"If you're going to another order of government and saying, 'Hey, I want to apply for funding for this building, but we might sell it,' they're going to say, 'No, no, no, no. We're not going to invest in a piece of public infrastructure if you're just going to sell it to a private entity,'" she said.

CBRM staff say there is currently no buyer interested in the building.
    
Council voted unanimously to keep the arena off the market.

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