• John Jantak

Future of Pincourt arena in doubt after town announces buyback from Groupe Thibault


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

The abandoned Pincourt arena on Fifth Avenue, as seen on December 13, 2017, faces an uncertain future. The unfinished facility has been plagued with various legal problems for almost 15 years when construction was first halted in 2003.

Mayor Yvan Cardinal is still hopeful the long-awaited Pincourt arena will be realized despite an agreement made by the city to buy back the building from its current owners Groupe Thibault. The news was announced at the Tuesday evening council meeting, December 12.The buyback means the arrangement the town made in 2013 with Groupe Thibault, who originally planned to complete the arena and have it ready by 2014, is officially dead. Even though the group made consistent efforts to complete the facility in subsequent years, Cardinal said it was the persistent legal wrangling that eventually led to the demise of the project. Town Manager Michel Perrier said the group had to conclude construction within five years after they acquired the building. “Because of the delays that occurred, the financial institutions became very scared about the project and its viability. They increased their demands to Groupe Thibault for more security funding which translated into more demands towards the town,” said Perrier.

Legal battle

The protracted legal battle was fought in Quebec Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal by Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jocelyn Thibault and representatives from Groupe Thibault, against former Vancouver Canucks hockey player Alexander Burrows and Pincourt businessman Paul Roy who headed a competing consortium that proposed another sports complex in neighbouring Notre Dame de l’île Perrot.

A Quebec Superior Court ruling handed down in June 2014 sided in favour of Groupe Thibault. Burrows and Roy contended in their legal actions at the time that the sale of the building and land by the town to Groupe Thibault for less than its assessed market value was a clear violation of the Quebec Cities and Towns Act.

They also claimed that ice time rental agreements arranged by Groupe Thibault with the town and the Commission scolaire des Trois Lacs (CSTL) were inflated and unfair because they constituted what could have been considered as subsidies in favour of the group.

Judge Danielle Mayrand rejected the allegations and dismissed the lawsuit and injunction that prevented the construction of the facility, ruling there were no irregularities in the way Groupe Thibault conducted its business and financial arrangements with the town and CSTL. Burrows and Roy appealed the decision.

Financing difficulties

Even after the Quebec Court of Appeals also ruled in favour of Groupe Thibault in July 2015, the organization which operates another successful facility in Sherbrooke, had difficulty securing the necessary financing to have the arena completed by the start of the 2016/17 hockey season.

“I’m very disappointed the project wasn’t realized but we will keep working to find a resolution to the problem so that we can have an arena for the citizens of Pincourt. This is part of our social development policy for the town and our councillors feel the same way. The region could also benefit from our arena,” Cardinal told Your Local Journal.

Responsibility to citizens

But Cardinal is also pragmatic about the future of the arena. “As much as we wanted the community to have a facility for the benefit of all residents, we have a responsibility in regard to our financial security. We are currently looking at several avenues, but it is imperative this matter be resolved one way or another as soon as possible,” said Cardinal.

Perrier said it was no longer feasible for either party to pursue the arena project. “We came to an agreement that Groupe Thibault wouldn’t go on with the project. We’re buying back the arena at $339,000 which is the price they paid for it at the time. They are going to pay back the due taxes plus interest so the town will recuperate about $95,000. We’ll deduct it from the purchase price. It will cost about $235,000 to buy it back,” said Perrier.

“It’s bad news for our citizens who were looking forward to having a sports infrastructure. We’re back to square one. Groupe Thibault proved in Sherbrooke they can deliver a quality product for the community. We were looking forward to work closely with them for a similar type of project. It’s very sad to see them leave but we may be able to find another quality partner,” Perrier added.

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