In an effort to make good on campaign promises, Thorold City Council has ordered a detailed staff report on all the financial expenses pertaining to the first year of operation of the Walker Sports and Abilities Centre.
“We need to be open and transparent, let the people know what they have, get some new ideas on how can best utilize it and move forward,” said Councillor Anthony Longo during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Constructed for last year’s Canada Summer Games, the $102.7-million sports facility has long been a polarizing topic in Thorold.
To build the Canada Games facility, a consortium agreement was drafted up between the four partners: Brock University, Thorold, St. Catharines and Niagara Region. In the agreement, the four parties are commonly referred to as the co-tenants, while Brock University is also referred to as the landowner. The terminology has led to some confusion as to Thorold's actual stake in the arena.
One of the major points of concern for council members is that Thorold has been paying for ice time that is not being used.
“In September the expenditure for unused ice rental was $18,316, October was $20,679 and now November is almost $26,000,” Councillor Henry D’Angela told fellow councillors. “We need to stop the bleeding here. It’s getting worse every month. If we’re paying for it anyway, how can the Thorold residents benefit from it?”
Councillor Longo asked the city’s Director of Finances, Maria Mauro, how much unused ice time Thorold is paying for when compared to the other consortium partners.
“I believe that our percentage of unused ice is higher than what I have seen for St. Catharines and Brock,” she answered.
Councillor Jim Handley expressed his intent to launch a motion at the next council meeting to seek a legal opinion on whether or not Thorold can opt out of the consortium agreement.
“I believe that if we can get a legal opinion something may just come to light,” he said.
But other councillors seem intent on making the most of the situation.
“I really believe that we need to make the best of this so let’s be open,” said Councillor Longo. “The public hasn’t really understood the basics of the agreement. I think we need to have some sort of explanation on what the facility is, who the owners are, who the tenants are, what we can use and what we can’t use.”
Councillor Carmen DeRose asked for a full staff review of the consortium agreement and all the financials pertaining to first year of operation of the facility, which was swiftly passed by other councillors.
City council also asked that a representative of the facility’s management group, ASM Global, come speak at a future council meeting.