SASKATOON -- The Governance and Priorities Committee on Monday voted in favour of pushing forward with the city’s grand vision of a new downtown arena, convention centre and larger entertainment district.

Before the committee was an administration report outlining options to pay for it. The committee heard about the need for new entertainment infrastructure from SaskTel Centre and TCU Place board members, and the need for better tourism amenities from the hotel and tourism industry.

The end goal, the city said, was to lessen the burden on property taxes. Administration recommended an accommodation tax on all hotel rooms sales, something done in other Canadian cities. But Tourism Saskatoon felt this step would only hurt an already decimated hospitality sector.

“Our members see funding opportunities through our existing programs outside of the necessity of mandating that tax,” said Tourism Saskatoon CEO Stephanie Clovechok. “I don’t think that we should hinge on the funding models being presented.”

Sheraton-Cavalier sales director Shawna Nelson told the committee how the pandemic has crushed the hotel industry in Saskatoon, with hotels reporting a 75 per cent reduction in hotel stays, leading to several thousand layoffs in the industry.

“We were the first to be hit and the hardest hit and we continue to be hit,” Nelson said. “As we climb out of this, an accommodation tax, without discussion of how we’re going to climb out of this or how we’re going to be competitive in the future, will definitely decimate this industry more significantly.”

City manager Jeff Jorgenson said the idea of an accommodation tax on hotel room sales isn’t something that will happen overnight. He said while the funding option is in the report, it’s just a signal to the industry that this is something that could be coming in the future, not immediately.

“We’re not looking at anything, like a new levy or something right away, we can start the discussion now but let’s give industry some time it gives them confidence for some time to recover,” he said.

Coun. Troy Davies put forward the motion to confirm the pursuit of a downtown district including the necessary transit and parking improvements Saskatoon needs.

The committee also supported the motion to work with industry partners and other levels of government for a detailed funding plan based on the administration’s options.

Lastly, the committee resolved that building the downtown entertainment district should come with no additional contributions from property taxes.