CBRM Council: Sports

Tomorrow’s Legends, a not-for-profit corporation registered federally in 2021 by Bill Kachafanas (brother to the CBRM’s regional solicitor), wants to take over the Centennial Arena and turn it into a multi-court sports facility. According to its listings in the federal corporate registry and the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stock Companies, Tomorrow’s Legends consists of a three-member board made up of Kachafanas, Aroon Rajani and Tyler Morrison.

Presenting to council on Tuesday, Kachafanas noted that this is not the first time the conversion of the Centennial Arena into a court facility has been proposed to the municipality. In 2018, a group of local sports organizations, including Basketball Cape Breton, Cape Breton Gymnastics Academy, Caledonia Rugby and the Cape Breton Highlanders, made a similar pitch to council, albeit with one key difference: where the new proposal asks the CBRM to transfer ownership of the Centennial to Tomorrow’s Legends (“at no cost to either party”), the 2018 proposal assumed facility — which was to be upgraded with funding from all three levels of government — would continue to be owned by the municipality.

CBRM's Centennial Arena and Bicentennial Gym

CBRM’s Centennial Arena and Bicentennial Gym (Photo by Christian Roach/CBC)

Council rejected the 2018 proposal. In hindsight, its reliance on the Cape Breton Highlanders as one of three “primary tenants” for the revamped facility, based on the belief that the team would “continue to draw audience” and would experience “increased stability,” was a definite weakness. The Highlanders went on hiatus from the National Basketball League of Canada for the 2019-20 season and never returned.

According to the “municipal spokesperson” quoted in this November 2021 CBC story, “CBRM never received a business plan from Basketball Cape Breton, so it didn’t move forward” with this project.

Kachafanas told council on Tuesday that what he learned from watching this episode was that sports organizations don’t want to own their own facilities and the CBRM doesn’t want to turn over ownership of a facility to a community group “only to have it come back.” (Hello, Bayplex!) So he established Tomorrow’s Legends to serve as a facility operator, freeing sports organizations to concentrate on delivering their programs.



Bill Kachafanas

Bill Kachafanas of Tomorrow’s Legends pitching to CBRM council during its 26 April 2022 session.

Kachafanas, whose group was initially (judging by its website) focused on building a new facility, told council that since 2019 they’ve been engaged with “several businesses and organizations to look at repurposing” the Centennial Arena.

But where the 2018 presentation clearly included the entire complex — both the Centennial Arena and the adjacent Bicentennial Gym, home to the Cape Breton Gymnastics Academy — Kachafanas’ focused on the Centennial Arena alone and when he was asked directly, by District 3 Councilor Cyril MacDonald, if his group was looking to buy the gym as well, Kachafanas said:

Well, certainly, that’s open for discussion. We didn’t come out and purposely define that because right now they’re a tenant of CBRM and certainly we wanted to make sure that CBRM had conversations necessary with their tenant prior to going in that direction but as far as applying for funds, the idea is to renovate, so if we can get them included in having their facility grow or expand in terms of modernization, then we’re all for that as well.

This seemed really weird to me, given the Cape Breton Gymnastics Academy was very much involved in the 2018 pitch to the CBRM. Why would Kachafanas not approach them for support? And while we’re on the subject, why did his presentation include no letters of support from any of the local court sports organizations — particularly basketball and volleyball — he is relying on to rent the facility? (“Tenancy agreements will serve as the primary source of funds for sustainable operations.”) To be clear, I’m not saying the support is not there, I’m just saying it’s a little strange not to provide evidence of its existence when making your case to council.


Solar power

Tomorrow’s Legends wants council to give it the Centennial Arena free of charge and then grant it tax-free status, at least until it becomes “sustainable.” Sustainability will be ensured by retrofitting the building with solar panels, a project for which they hope to win funding from the federal government’s Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program. (As a non-profit, the group would be eligible to apply.)

Kachafanas is a tech guy, so it’s not surprising that tech features prominently in the plan for the facility. He says he’s “forged partnerships” with Source Atlantic and Breton Green Solutions which have “active solar installations throughout Atlantic Canada.”

This would have been a good point to reference some of these installations, particularly if one involved the conversion of a 1960s ice rink into a net-zero multi-sport facility, but Kachafanas didn’t. He also described Source Atlantic as a “green energy company” and “an Atlantic Canadian energy distributor” but I would call it an Irving-owned industrial supply outfit whose contribution to the project, according to the proposal attached to Kachafanas’ presentation, will be LED lighting.

Breton Green Solutions is a River Ryan-based solar installation company established in January 2021 whose website doesn’t feature any completed projects, although presumably it has some. It proposes to cover the roof of the Centennial Arena — and, apparently, the Bicentennial Gym, although as noted, the ask to council is for ownership of the Centennial — with solar panels at a cost of $689,563. An analysis prepared for Tomorrow’s Legends states:

Your system proposal was carefully modeled on the most advanced platform in the world, which conducts the most accurate performance simulations in the industry. The performance numbers we offer are what you can actually expect to get from your system.

But this gets fudged in the fine print:

The information provided in this proposal is a preliminary estimate for illustration purpose only and is not a binding agreement or obligation. Actual system production or savings is not guaranteed.

Kachafanas has no doubts about the figures provided, however, and lists heating and lighting costs for the building at $0.0, once the $689,563 system is in place.

PV system proposed for Centennial Arena/Bicentennial Gym

I do like the idea of a solar-powered building, and I like the idea of retrofitting older buildings rather than demolishing them, and having had the chance, last May, to speak with Greg Callaghan of Basketball Cape Breton, I’ve come to understand the need for court space in the municipality. (Callaghan, I should note, told me at the time that Kachafanas’ group was working “independently” of BCB). But I think council should get an opinion on the feasibility of solar energy aspect of this project from someone other than the company that hopes to install it.

Other tech to be incorporated into the building is less exciting: wifi, security code access, off-site monitoring and a “multi-purpose media and technology center” equipped with “the latest technology for recording games and events” and large-screen monitors for “playback and game analysis.”

(That last item, which sounds so professional and serious, reminded me of my misgivings about the group’s name — Tomorrow’s Legends — which seems to put the focus on the rare local kids who might become sports “legends” rather than the hundreds of local kids who could potentially have fun in such a facility. I have to think fun is the main aim of a recreational sports facility, but maybe I’m just a hopeless underachiever.)


Turning over the keys

The plan for the Centennial includes regulation-size courts for both basketball and volleyball. As I understand it, the main surface will be the regulation 50 X 94 foot basketball court which can be reconfigured into two volleyball courts, although the phrasing in the presentation is a bit opaque:

Regulation volleyball courts are smaller than basketball courts and will be easily represented within the boundaries of the primary surface area.

The facility will provide seating for 500, dressing rooms, storage areas for equipment, a box office and a concession space.

Sadly, there is no handy diagram to show what this transformation would look like, instead, for some reason, the presentation concludes with this picture, which seems to be of the standalone building originally envisaged by Tomorrow’s Legends rather than a renovated Centennial Arena. (And if it’s supposed to be a renovated Centennial Arena, what happened to the Bicentennial Gym?)

Tomorrow's Legends proposed court facility

Kachafanas estimates the cost of the retrofit at $2.8 million and says fundraising “will be the source of raising the necessary capital to build the facility along with assistance from governments through grants and infrastructure renewal programs.”

Fundraising will include selling “symbolic” bricks, plaques and naming rights as well as establishing a “Legendary Partners Program” to “seek assistance from government, business, community leaders and individuals.” (According to the group’s website, it began running a 50/50 raffle last May and seems to have raised about $1,380 to date.)

A surprising number of councilors were ready to “turn over the keys” to Kachafanas immediately after his presentation yesterday, but I think there are some obvious questions to be answered about this project. Questions like, how do local court sports organizations feel about it? Are the solar energy calculations realistic? How was the $2.8 million renovation figure reached and is it realistic? Is the Bicentennial Gym part of this plan or not?

For the answers to these and other questions, stay tuned for the Issue Paper council requested from CBRM staff. In the meantime, here’s the presentation Kachafanas gave yesterday:



And here’s the presentation that was given in 2018: