A prominent developer in Saskatoon is suggesting the city yards in north downtown would be the ideal location for a downtown arena, should city councillors decide to go ahead with the project.
Ken Achs, president and CEO of Mid-West Group, shared his thoughts on what the ideal site for an arena and convention centre in the city’s core would look like in an interview with 650 CKOM Thursday afternoon.
He said one location coming to mind is the parking lot on the north side of Midtown Plaza between 22nd Street and 23rd Street, which could connect with area hotels and the mall.
However, he thinks the city yards on the northern edge of downtown would be the best spot.
“The city has complete control of the city yards land, and they can call the shots,” Achs said.
He noted the empty land around the yards could lend to more spin-off development of restaurants, hotels and other venues — similar to what happened in Edmonton’s Ice district after the construction of Roger’s Place.
“Build it, they will come. Then you just have to make that experience as pleasant as possible,” he said.
“They’ve mastered that in downtown Edmonton.”
Achs was a staunch supporter of building a new arena downtown in the early 1980s before city council eventually settled on Sask. Place — now SaskTel Centre.
“That’s yesterday’s news,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question the rink should be in the core.”
A study commissioned by the boards of SaskTel Centre and TCU Place concluded in March that a downtown arena and convention centre replacement for the aging facilities was the preferred solution to keeping top conferences and acts in the city.
City staff endorsed the study Wednesday when they released a pair of reports, one stating future downtown planning should include an arena option and another laying out financing options for the project.
The report will be considered by city councillors in a governance and priorities meeting Tuesday, though they’re only intended to be received as information with no decisions expected on approving the project.
Administration said in the reports there is still a lot to be worked out — parking, water services, transit flow — before a decision is reached.