Three decades after building what was quite possibly the largest arena per capita in the world, the City of Saskatoon is exploring its replacement.
SaskTel Centre has a capacity of 15,100 and two high-draw tenants, the Western Hockey Leaque’s Saskatoon Blades and the National Lacrosse League’s Saskatoon Rush, but its location, nearly 10 kilometres north of downtown in an industrial district, has long been a bone of contention.
Another emerging problem for the 30-year-old facility is it hasn’t been updated to handle the growing size of today’s touring performers, so it’s expected some promoters will start to skip the city of 300,000.
The arena hosts 20 to 25 concerts per year and a total of 120 days of events.
City council commissioned a report to investigate the feasibility of building a new arena downtown. The study was done by the same group that recently helped Edmonton develop its Ice District sports and entertainment zone.
Bruce Urban, owner of the Rush, said in March that he would contribute 10 per cent, or about $20 million, towards the cost of a new arena downtown.
The report identified $101 million in cost upgrades that would have to go into SaskTel Centre today to bring it up to current standards.
“Even at $101 million, that doesn’t get us the facility that we want,” said Kelly Macsymic, sales associate at ICR Commercial Real Estate in Saskatoon. “It doesn’t get you anything into the future.”
She doesn’t believe enough is being done to secure a third tenant, but that would certainly improve the feasibility of a new facility.
“As long as we’ve had a hockey rink, we’ve always wanted an NHL team,” she suggested.