Follow the development [Thunder Bay] – Thunder Bay Chronicle-Jouranl Editorial (April 27, 2012)

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.

IT SEEMS there is so much going on in Thunder Bay that it’s hard to keep track of. In one way, that’s a good thing. Thunder Bay needs development to complement what’s left of forestry, build on the next big mining boom and capitalize on the emergence of medical research clusters.

But citizens need to keep aware and be apprised of all these initiatives. It’s our community, our region, and the power brokers must always bear in mind who’s in charge. Grand plans cost money and it mostly comes from taxpayers.

There are two distinct camps among supporters of a proposed event centre. Those who favour a downtown waterfront site agree it will build on and feed off the city’s designated entertainment district surrounding it. Those set on Innova Business Park like the wide-open space to allow for on-site parking and access from adjacent expressways.

A letter writer today wonders if Thunder Bay and area’s notoriously fickle sports fans will troop to a new arena when so few fail to attend events like the Dudley Hewitt Cup.

The event centre’s hockey tenant will be professional and local promoters say they have serious interest from two or three leagues. That would certainly boost interest and attendance, but to what degree remains a gamble. Even some NHL teams lose money.

Maybe the university team can also sign a lease to double the hockey attraction. But will that only halve the willingness of people to show up to watch games?

Almost lost in all of this, but not on our contributor Gary Laine, is the plan for the facility to also house a convention centre. Based on Laine’s research, not even the addition of a new hotel in adjacent Marina Park (to finally be announced in June, we’re still assured) will be enough with other north side city inns to serve the convenient needs of major conventioneers.

Presumably, the consultants will have an answer for this. They always do, but there’s no way to hold them to account if they’re wrong.

Consultants are deeply involved in recommendations to city council for development along the Junot Avenue/Golf Links Road corridor. (For starters, can we pick one name?) Among other ideas they say Innova Park is perfect for a mining centre of excellence proposed by Lakehead University.

LU president Brian Stevenson assures the Centre of Excellence in Mineral Exploration and Sustainable Mining Development will differ from Laurentian University’s existing Mining Innovation Centre.

The Lakehead centre would concentrate on training and research for Northwestern Ontario, specifically the massive Ring of Fire mineral development that virtually every entity with any potential tie to mining is hoping to latch onto.

Thunder Bay city council unanimously passed a resolution this week to support Exton in the municipality of Greenstone as the preferred site for a ferrochrome processor.

Mayor Keith Hobbs has said until now that he wanted the big furnace built here. But Cliffs Natural Resources, the largest Ring operator, appears set on Sudbury despite much politicking to the contrary. So Hobbs and other regional officials from Nipigon, Greenstone and various first nations at least want to keep those jobs in the Northwest.

The mining centre of excellence would further direct Ring of Fire and other mining development business to Thunder Bay and the event centre consultants agree with the corridor consultants that Innova’s the place for it.

Hobbs thinks the fix is in among consultants and city administrators to arrange that in order to assure the waterfront district gets the multiplex If that is so, let’s not have a consulting exercise to “study,” then “settle on” Innova for the mining centre.