New Guertin arena
---- Gatineau takes out second mortgage backed by Investissement Québec to finance Guertin arena
Gatineau officials, along with Vision Multisports Outaouais (VMSO), have found a solution to financing La Cité four-rink arena complex under construction in the city’s east end. On August 25, municipal councillors approved to modify the financing protocol for the facility. Councillors are leaning on a $21 million investment from Investissement Québec on a second mortgage over a 35-year amortization period.
Involving the construction of a 4,000-seat arena – future home of the Gatineau Olympiques – with three community rinks, and a four-level underground parking lot, the project will cost approximately $101.8 million. Overall, the city has invested about $37.8 million, the MAMH (Quebec Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing) pitched in $26.5 million and VMSO Desjardins put up a $16.5 million loan – on top of the $21 million from Investissement Québec. To subsidize the modifications, the city will pay $310 per hour for ice time at the Branchaud-Brère complex and at the new arena – once it opens – with a 1.9 per cent annual indexation, instead of $302 per hour as previously planned.
The city plans on purchasing 7,700 hours of ice time from the three community rinks to respond to the demand of minor hockey associations and other recreational organizations in the region. The rest of the hours will be VMSO’s to put on the free market for people to rent. Expecting $20 million in savings over 25 years, Director of financial services Mario St-Pierre said the privatized protocol of operating the facility remains financially advantageous for the city. St-Pierre attributed the increase in ice time rates at both facilities to the project’s amortization period – the period of time it takes to pay off a loan – which the provincial government maxed out at 35 years, despite the city hoping for 45 years.
According to a press release issued by the city, the cost of ice time would be upwards of $381 per hour if the facilities were municipally-operated – approximately an extra $85,000 in annual costs. Noting that it was the best economic decision to make, Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin believes the city’s solution will be interesting for everyone, from the Gatineau Olympiques to local taxpayers. He clarified that the solution is an adjustment to what the city had originally planned to subsidize the project. St-Pierre said the project’s original scenario costed approximately $80.4 million with $33 million in savings over 25 years, and ice time at $260 per hour with two 10-year renovation options.
On June 30, the cost and lifespan were the same, while providing a 45-year amortization period instead of 35, with ice time at $302 per hour instead of $310 and a potential $22 million in savings over 25 years, St-Pierre said. On July 7, municipal council approved to pay $302 per hour of ice time over a 45-year lifespan – rather than 25 years – for both the new facility and the Branchaud-Briere Complex – and to name a city representative to oversee the project’s budget. City officials stated that the budget needed to be reviewed because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s repercussions and construction cost increases, among other things.
Considering the reduction in economic savings the project has seen so far, Parc-de-la-Montagne district councillor Lise Boudrias argued that the project is becoming less and less financially advantageous for the city. Despite projecting to save considerably less money than anticipated, Lucerne councillor and vice-president of the Commission des loisirs, des sports et du développement communautaire Gilles Chagnon believes the city is still getting a good deal. He also pointed out the importance of making ice time more accessible with the city’s growing population.
Chagnon noted that VMSO is planning to open at least one of the facility’s community rinks by the winter of 2021 and that the new home of the Gatineau Olympiques should be open by September 2021. Regarding the construction of a sportsplex in Gatineau’s west end, Deschênes councillor Mike Duggan said the project’s initial call for tendering didn’t come to fruition and noted that the city still doesn’t have a contractor for the job.
Gatineau Olympiques spokesperson Norm MacMillan told the Aylmer Bulletin that the team will play its home games and practices at Baribeau Arena until at least September 27 – noting that training camp started last weekend.
With the Robert-Guertin Centre currently managed by the Centre intégré de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais (CISSSO) as a homeless shelter, the Olympiques are hoping to move back into their old barn by December, MacMillan said.