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Arena Build Begins

It may not look like much, but Wednesday marked a major milestone in the progress of the $50-million spectator facility.

Passersby may have noticed a few construction vehicles and workers in the old lower-level parking lot as of Wednesday, as Ball-Rankin Construction started the preliminary site work for the city’s downtown spectator facility. Much of the work over the coming weeks is to include curb removal, the stripping of topsoil and some minor excavation, but Mayor Brian McMullan said the site will become a beehive of activity in January, when full construction gets underway.

“It’s starting off with the preliminary work, but people will see a fully active site by early January, if not the end of December,” said McMullan, noting at that time the construction firm will begin to drive piles into the ground for the project.

The contract between the City of St. Catharines and Ball-Rankin is still being finalized through legal channels, said McMullan, but the parties signed a letter of intent several weeks ago, and a bylaw was passed at council last Monday night to get the work started.

McMullan said there has been a major buzz since Ball-Rankin was awarded the contract to design and build the spectator facility in October. At an event with business and community leaders Monday, he said it was all the talk.

“There is a real positive response in the community,” he said. “The community has a lot of interest in this project and are excited to see it come to life downtown.”

Information on the other bids for the project were released to the public last week, and both PCL Construction and Giffels Constructors were unable to meet all facets on the city’s wish list for the facility, based on the $45-million construction cost cap. While Tom Rankin admitted in October they wrestled with paring back the price to make it fit, Rankin ended up meeting the city’s needs.

“Ultimately we have all the features the city had hoped to have with this,” McMullan said. “Not only does this serve the Niagara IceDogs and Ontario Hockey League point of view, but it also allows us to host concerts and other events and attractions.

A team of senior staff, along with the mayor and several city councillors and CBRE, the project manager, will now continue to work with Ball-Rankin as the construction firm begins the job.

While the city put aside funds in contingencies for getting out of the ground in the $45-million construction budget, the job is now Ball-Rankin’s to keep the project on budget. The construction firm is the one on the hook should there be any overages on the budget.

“It’s a final price and any risk is being born by the contractor,” McMullan said. “We feel this is a very responsible approach city council took and provides protection for the taxpayers.”

McMullan said the city is confident, however, in the firm, and is looking forward to seeing the project take shape. The facility is scheduled to be completed in September 2014.

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