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Businesses applaud potential Saskatoon arena location – but city planner skeptical
The City of Saskatoon has pointed to an undeveloped parcel of land in Riversdale as a potential site for a new downtown arena and convention centre.
While a local business owner on 20th Street is praising the riverbank project, a former city planner says he favours a different location for a new arena.
“To me it’s a logical next step for Saskatoon to join some of the great cities in North America that have waterfront complexes and amenities, so we’re super excited,” said Shawn Moen, co-owner of 9 Mile Legacy Brewing on 20th Street.
However, Saskatoon’s former longtime city planner Alan Wallace favours the site across from TCU Place.
“The reason for that is it’s flanked on both sides by a rapid transit system and you have the convention centre across the street.”
In September the city revealed a process was underway to secure pricing agreements with the owners of possible sites for a new downtown arena before revealing the locations publicly.
On Monday city councilors and the mayor will review a city report outlining the potential for a new arena and convention centre on a parcel in River Landing named Parcel G – now an undeveloped paid parking lot.
Wallace said the proposed parcel of land isn’t big enough if the city is planning to replicate SaskTel Centre.
“You need about a five-acre site to make an arena work and none of these parcels by themselves is big enough for that,” Wallace said, adding before an arena is built, he’d like to see key pieces on infrastructure in place first.
“What you really want is access to structure parking above-grade, but a bus rapid transit system is critically important to make sure thousands of people can get to that facility,” he said.
Randy Pshebylo, executive director with the Riversdale Business Improvement District, said the BID board is in favour of the idea.
If the arena isn’t built in Riversdale, it should be as close as possible to Riversdale, he said.
For Moen, the economic spinoff for businesses including his own along the revitalized Riversdale is huge, and while people may be concerned about parking and congestion in the core, Moen said traffic flow isn’t great as it stands at SaskTel Centre.
“You get stuck in traffic all the time where it’s currently located so I think we can only go up,” Moen said. “I see great developments all over the city, why not Riversdale?”
Wallace said the city is likely looking at four or five options for the new arena and convention centre. Other locations may include a spot north of downtown, a spot near the intersection of Idylwyld Drive and 22nd Street, or the lot where the Toys R’ Us is located on the east side of River Landing.
“The big decision, which was to locate it downtown, was made and it was a great decision so we know it’s eventually going to happen,” Wallace said.
He added it’s likely shovels won’t be in the ground for at least seven years.