Action Laval hopes to inspire voters with pledge to build ‘Centre de foire’

1.5 million sq. ft. convention centre would be larger than any other venue in Canada now

With more than a month of campaigning to go before municipal elections take place in the City of Laval, the Action Laval opposition party is hoping a major campaign pledge they’re making to build a large international-calibre convention centre captures the imagination of voters and leads to victory on election day.

The elaborate plan for the Centre de foire de Laval was unveiled last week by Action Laval leader and mayoralty candidate Sophie Trottier, along with incumbent and new candidates running in the Nov. 7 election.

Estimated cost: $220 million

The estimated cost of the project would be $220 million. $100 million would come from the federal and provincial governments, with the rest being paid by the City of Laval on an amortized 20-year basis at 5 per cent interest, equalling $8 million in interest fees per year.

The party maintains that for a good number of years now, businesses in the Montreal metropolitan region and beyond have been missing out on opportunities because there is no single convention centre in the area that has the capacity to meet new and demanding trade show and convention standards.

Located near old quarry

Action Laval sees the Centre de foire de Laval, which would be built somewhere on a large and currently-vacant tract of land on St-Martin Blvd. near the old quarry and Laval courthouse, as a unique opportunity to add to the City of Laval’s global prestige by building a convention and trade show centre of international stature.

According to a prospectus prepared by Action Laval setting out a few basic specifications, it would have 1.5 million square feet of space, multi-level interior parking, a green roof, would be accessible by mass public transit, and would be built for energy self-sufficiency and to LEED standards.

Reaping the benefits

Action Laval believes the Centre de foire, which would operate year around, would bring in annual revenues ranging from $13.5 million to $16 million, that it would help create new employment directly and indirectly, would be equipped to serve as a venue to host NBA farm team and semi-pro basketball tournaments, and would contain a large multi-purpose events hall for international-level conventions, competitions, events and trade shows.

“We know this is a market where currently there is room for expansion, but what we also see now is that there is a shortage of venues,” said Trottier. “So, our vision is one that’s simple and straightforward: the Centre de foire will be filling a need while providing an answer for something that is wanted.”

Other convention centres

According to research conducted by Action Laval, some of the world’s largest convention centres, such as those in Barcelona (Spain) and New York have 1.4 million and 1.8 million square feet of space each respectively. In Canada, the Toronto Convention Centre has 700,000 square feet.

In Montreal, the Palais des congrès de Montréal has 550,000 square feet spread out over several floor levels. The aging Place Bonaventure has 250,000 square feet, while the Olympic Stadium has just over 200,000 square feet of usable space to host events inside the cavernous sports venue.

Action Laval leader and mayoral candidate Sophie Trottier. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“So, right now we’re at a turning point in our city, with a unique opportunity that may never come up again,” said Trottier, adding that “The timing couldn’t be more perfect” while the market value of convention and trade show events hosting in Canada alone is worth $33 billion annually.

Having an edge over Montreal

Action Laval feels the City of Laval could be in an advantaged position, because Montreal’s Palais des congrès, which is located in an already densely-developed area of that city’s downtown core on the fringe of Chinatown, is currently facing constraints that go against plans for expansion. In short, they simply may not have enough room to expand.

As things now stand, the City of Laval’s current administration has one major project going, promised years ago, but which it has yet to deliver. Although the foundations for the Aquatics Complex have already been built next to the Cosmodôme in central Laval, progress fell behind when bids for the rest of the building came in far too high and the city suspended the process for a time.

Aquatics Complex not yet done

Keeping that in mind, Action Laval maintains nonetheless there would be nothing inappropriate about starting another major infrastructure project before the last one has even started.

Action Laval is pledging to build a $220 million convention centre in Laval if they form the administration after the Nov. 7 election. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

According to Action Laval city councillor for Saint-Bruno David De Cotis, the city has already allotted $20 million in cash of its own money for the estimated $61.1 million Aquatics Complex, and is awaiting a further $20 million in subsidies from Quebec and Ottawa.

“It’s not an issue,” he insisted. “And it will be auto-financed by the city based on revenues coming in. So, there are no issues here over financing or investment.”