Saskatoon holds information session on downtown entertainment district

The City of Saskatoon has landed on Stantec, an engineering consulting firm, as its technical adviser for the Downtown Event and Entertainment District and opened the floor to residents to ask questions of the new district Tuesday night.

“The fact that this is going to be part of changing the history of Saskatoon potentially, I think it’s important to be here and to listen and to learn and see how we can apply the lessons from elsewhere to what we’re hoping to do here,” said Lenore Swystun, with the Caswell Hill Community Association among other local organizations. 

She said if it hits all the right marks, it could be a good addition to the city.

City council approved $17 million to buy three properties near the site of the proposed event centre downtown in late December, adding to the $25 million to buy the north parking lot of the Midtown shopping centre where it plans to erect a new arena and entertainment district.

An artistic illustration of what a future downtown event centre could look like in the parking lot north of the Midtown Shopping Centre in Saskatoon. (City of Saskatoon)

As city council moves ahead with the project, it’s looking to engage with community. 

On the city’s website, an outline of the targeted engagement phases span from April 2023 to March 2024.

On Wednesday, Swystun and others gathered at the Roxy Theatre to hear more information about the district and the city’s plans for it.

“Every city needs it and I’m grateful that we have people in the business community and councillors that can look at a big picture and develop our city in a really exciting way,” said Vicki Chapman Mager, another attendee to the event held at the Roxy Theatre. 

Saskatoon recently chose Stantec as the technical adviser on the project, and the firm has partnered with architecture and engineering firms HOK and LMN — which have experience in similar projects like Rogers Place and Edmonton’s ICE District, the Seattle Convention Centre and the Calgary BMO Centre Expansion in Calgary.

Simon O’Byrne, a senior vice-president at Stantec, says part of the job is making sure the downtown lives up to its potential.

“Whether it’s the library, whether it’s the other amenities that are in the downtown, the wealth of heritage buildings, the river, there’s so many assets already there, but how do we continue to build on that and how do we also build a downtown that’s more inclusive for everybody,” said Simon O’Byrne, a senior vice-president with Stantec.

O’Byrne paraphrased the famous Wayne Gretzky quote, stating “it’s not about playing to where the puck is today, it’s where’s the puck going to be tomorrow? … What does the city want a half-a-million person city to look like and what does it want it not to look like? So part of it is asking those questions.”

The city said it continues to work toward a more detailed design of the district, a construction procurement model and project scope for the late summer and fall.

It also said it’s seeking a private partner and other ways to fund the project that does not impact property tax.