By Kristen Oelschlagel
BELLEVILLE – After what seemed like a never-ending debate, the Quinte Bay Gymnastics Club finally owns the Dick Ellis Arena.
On Tuesday night, Belleville city council voted in favour of selling the arena at 18 Harder Dr. to the club.
The deal includes the city giving a $450,000 mortgage to the club, with the money to be used for renovations to the arena. The city will also get back the club’s current building at 18 Yeoman St., the Ben Bleeker building.
Mayor Neil Ellis is calling the deal a win for the city.
“When you look at it we’re actually making money on the mortgage, we’re providing (sports services to the city) through this club, we’re enabling (the club) to have a bigger facility, we’re getting land back that’s more valuable to us because we own the parcel around it, whereas (with) the Dick Ellis we just own the building. For us it’s a great deal.”
The question of the $450,000 mortgage to the gymnastics club had caused the issue to be tabled during the Oct. 28 council meeting, when council asked for a review of the club’s financial statements. A chartered accountant subsequently reviewed the club’s financials and that the recommendation was made to go ahead with the deal.
Not every councillor agreed with the decision, though.
Councillor Garnett Thompson said it’s not the city’s business to be a lender.
“There are the financial institutions out there that do lend money. My concern is, should we be having those agencies investigate that avenue first? If there’s a concern and we want to make a deal, maybe we can re-look at it again if they can’t get funding from the bank, but that’s what they’re in business for. We’re in business, as one of the other councillors said, of governing.”
But Mayor Ellis said he’s fully confident in the decision, citing the city’s previous mortgage to the club for the Bleeker building.
“Over the course of the last 15 years, they’ve made every payment. They haven’t been late for a payment … they’ve been an exceptional mortgagee,” said Ellis.
Other details of the deal include the gymnastics club paying the city $125,000 cash and the city allowing the club to stay in its current building rent-free for six months while renovations are being done to the arena.
Ellis said that he is hoping talks with the Quinte Exhibition and Raceway will result in the exhibition being moved from the land in question, either so that it uses just the west side of Sidney Street or, preferably, moves out of the central city completely.
There is already a restaurant chain looking to purchase the land.
Bob Doyle, the franchise holder of most of the Belleville McDonald’s outlets, confirmed that the corporation has been in talks with the city. Doyle said McDonald’s is very interested in purchasing the land but so far no offer has been made.
If McDonald’s was to buy land on that block it would be no more than two acres, he said.