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The glittering eight-storey arena now proposed for the Port Lands is sure to please the Waterfront Design Review Panel -- which threatened to resign en masse over the old "suburban" design -- but what will it cost? (RDH Architects)
The glittering eight-storey arena now proposed for the Port Lands is sure to please the Waterfront Design Review Panel -- which threatened to resign en masse over the old "suburban" design -- but what will it cost? (RDH Architects)

New Port Lands plan builds up, not out Add to ...

A glittering, stacked four-pad arena - the first of its kind in the world - would utterly transform Toronto's Port Lands.

But at what cost?

The city has yet to release a business case or a price estimate for the latest iteration of its Port Lands Sports Complex, a glass-walled tower of rinks the height of a 10-storey office building which the Waterfront Design Review Panel will assess Wednesday.

The panel's eminent architects and planners are sure to prefer the stacked alternative to the sprawling, ground-level proposal over which they threatened to quit en masse in the spring.

One prominent Toronto architect, Ken Greenberg, resigned from the team overseeing the project in March because he felt it wrecked plans for a dense urban neighbourhood.

"This is a huge step in the right direction," he said of the new proposal, which was formally unveiled at a public meeting Tuesday night.

The city has already conceded that the much-derided suburban scheme would cost more than the $34-million in federal funds set aside for the project.

But building up is expected to be even more expensive than building out; early drafts of a stacked option for the eight-acre city-owned site at Commissioners Street and the Don Roadway were shelved because of the prohibitive cost.

"It's a huge concern to me," said Councillor Paul Ainslie, who sits on the budget committee and the community development and recreation committee, one of several bodies helping steer the project. "I'm thinking back to the huge state of good repair backlog in the parks department and I wonder if this [a stacked arena near the waterfront]is the right use of taxpayers' money."

The city hired Deloitte and Touche to analyze how much revenue a four-pad arena could earn from competitive hockey leagues and blockbuster tournaments.

That business case, along with a price tag for the building, should be ready before the scheme goes to city council for the final meeting of David Miller's administration in August.

"We've got $34-million to start with. I think that's a good nest egg," Paula Fletcher, the local councillor, said. "It's got to go through a whole bunch of hoops even prior to the final costing of it. I'm not focused on that at the moment."

The new proposal features four NHL-sized ice pads stacked atop each other like pancakes, a Zamboni for each level and three high-speed elevators with raised roofs to accommodate hockey sticks, according to Dan Herljevic, project manager from Toronto's Rounthwaite Dick and Hadley Architects Inc.

Like its forerunner, the new design is about 185,000 square feet, but its footprint is only one-third the size if you exclude a public plaza. It features the same amenities as the old proposal, including an indoor running track, pro shop, community rooms and, possibly, a small restaurant.

In both designs, the contentious issue of parking remains unresolved.

Critics balked at the possibility of as many as 440 surface parking spaces under the old proposal. That figure came from a traffic study that concluded 440 stalls would be needed for tournaments, not daily use. Daily use - and the zoning-required minimum - is 210 stalls, Mr. Herljevic said.

Now both designs include options for 210-spot lots below ground or at ground level.

"We acknowledge there has to be some kind of plan if and when there's a big tournament," Mr. Herljevic said.

When it comes to cost, Mr. Greenberg suggested choosing a spectacular, precedent-setting design would help attract extra money to the project.

"I think having a facility like this that would be unique in the world, in many respects would enable them to attract types of operators that they might not be able to attract with a much more utilitarian scheme."



The old design



A sprawling four-pad arena whose "suburban" layout prompted the Waterfront Design Review Panel - a collection of respected local architects and planners - to threaten to quit en masse.

Parking: Between 210 and 440 spaces, with an option to bury 200 beneath half the building. No final decision has been made on the number of spaces.

Square footage: 185,000

Footprint: Covers nearly three acres of the eight-acre site

Cost: Unknown. City officials say it will be more than the $34-million already committed.



The new design



Four rinks stacked on top of each other in a glass building the height of a 10-storey office tower. The first of its kind in the world, the arena would boast a Zamboni for each floor and three large, high-speed elevators to whisk equipment-laden players between floors.

Parking: Between 210 and 400 spaces, with an option to bury 200 spaces beneath a public plaza. No final decision has been made on the number of spaces.

Square footage: 185,000

Footprint: Covers just over one acre of the eight-acre site

Cost: Unknown. Expected to be significantly more expensive than the old design.

Source: Dan Herljevic, project manager, Rounthwaite, Dick and Hadley Architects Inc.

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