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BREAKING: Province comes through with funding for twin-pad McMeeken centre replacement

The Sault arena project is one of eight approved across the province
First design 6
Initial design for McMeeken arena replacement

Sault Ste. Marie councillors logged on to tonight's virtual City Council meeting expecting to argue about whether to scale back the $27.9 million W. J. McMeeken Centre replacement, or finance it with long-term debt.

But Sault MPP Ross Romano and Laurie Scott, provincial minister of infrastructure, made a surprise - and very welcome - announcement: the province has agreed to contribute $18 million toward the new twin-pad arena.

Last year, the Ontario government rejected a city application for funding for the project, declining to advance it to the federal government for consideration as part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Project (ICIP), which received far more applications than could be funded.

But City Council voted in January to proceed without cash from higher levels of government.

In a surprise appearance at tonight's council meeting, Romano and Scott announced the new funding will be under the priority local infrastructure sub-stream of the new $200 million provincial Strategic Priorities Infrastructure Fund (SPIF).

SPIF was created to provide infrastructure funding to larger, strategic projects and to sports facilities. 

The Sault arena project is one of eight approved across the province.

SPIF projects were selected based on the original ICIP evaluation criteria, and then assessed according to their expected impact on local economic recovery.

The following criteria were used to evaluate projects:

  • community support
  • operational and financial capacity
  • similar services accessible nearby
  • demonstrated community need
  • value for money
  • asset management planning
  • regional distribution of projects

Romano says Ontario will continue to seek more federal funding for infrastructure projects needed by municipalities.

Recipient municipalities will be responsible for funding the remaining cost-share as outlined in their original application, plus any cost overruns.

Additional coverage of this breaking story will be posted later by SooToday.