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Heritage dollars hinge on tourism


The town could get senior government dollars for an arena project without building two new ice surfaces--as long as what is built boosts area tourism.

And the town still could be eligible for funding even if it decides to build a second ice surface unattached to Memorial Arena.

That was the word from Dave Murphy, co-ordinator with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., on how the board doles out dollars for recreation complexes.

"It really depends on the tourism benefits to the town," he said yesterday from Sudbury, noting they have had applications for facilities that were added on to an existing rink.

Operating cost-wise, though, Murphy noted it made more sense to have the two ice surfaces attached.

Heritage Fund guidelines say the complex "may" include two or more ice pads, a physical fitness training and conditioning centre, as well as several other revenue-generating recreational facilities that are profit driven.

"[But] it is the tourism benefits that have been the deciding factor," Murphy said.

Once they receive the application, Murphy noted the board walks through each of the guideline requirements step by step to make sure it fulfills all the criteria.

That criteria includes having a facility able to draw large numbers of people to the area for a variety of reasons.

As well, the facility must:

osignificantly benefit area tourism;

obe commercially viability;

obe used year-round by tourists and people outside the area;

obe near a major population centre (within two hours);

ohave a strong marketing commitment from the municipality and the private sector; and

ohave both private and public sector partners.

The municipality also must have the ability to support the complex when economic conditions take a downturn.

For those who qualify, the Heritage Fund will kick in up to 50 percent--preferably in the form of a loan--of the total capital costs.

Other types of assistance include conditional contributions, forgivable performance loans, and loan guarantees.

The NOHFC funding criteria was an issue the Committee of the Whole directed Community Services manager George Bell to get further clarification on.

"All we can do is write them a letter and ask," Bell noted, adding they should send off a letter of intent stating their interest to the Heritage Fund.

Although council is taking the arena issue to the public for input, their decision also will depend on whether the town can access senior government dollars--and whether it can afford to build the two new surfaces "Ice for Kids" is lobbying for.

"It will come down to dollars," noted Coun. Dave Bourgeault.

"What’s going to dictate it is cost. And we may have to back off and build only one," echoed Coun. Deane Cunningham. "[And] if we can only build one rink, it has to be there."

Coun. Sharon Tibbs agreed, noting the town already had a debenture for the facility but that there would be no further dollars from the town for the project.

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