Markham council to vote on public money for arena
Paul Johnston and Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:56AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 10:23PM EST
Dozens of people lined up to give deputations Tuesday night on whether the City of Markham should spend taxpayers’ dollars on a proposed NHL-size arena.
More than 60 people signed up to have their say on the 20,000 seat, $325-million complex that would be built on a vacant lot near Highway 407 and Kennedy Road.
“They’re more than welcome to build the arena,” said Karen Rea, president of the Markham Village Ratepayers Association. “Our opposition is that we don’t like the financial framework.”
“The people that first spoke, they were friends of the mayor,” Rea said regarding some of the deputations earlier in the night in favour of the arena.
“By all means if they want to come and give a cheque, then bring the chequebooks,” she added.
“I just don’t think that the [City of] Markham should be in the business of financing projects such as this,” echoed resident Terry Churchhill.
“At the end of the day, I think it should be all private sector money put into this project, and let them take all the risk,” he said.
Speaking with CP24 Tuesday afternoon, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said the arena was an “incredible opportunity” for the city and that the cost would not be passed on to current residents.
“Half of the money will be coming from the private sector,” Scarpitti explained. “The other half is coming from the future growth that is happening in Markham over the next 20 years.”
Under the terms of the initial financial framework, the City of Markham would borrow the $325 million for the arena, the private partners behind the project would repay half of the loan, and the city would pay off the other half through levies on developers.
“I think we’ve got a plan here that makes sense for our community,” Scarpitti added. “It’s unprecedented that the private sector would provide half the money for this type of project.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, Markham councillors are expected to vote on whether to rescind the current financial framework and offer no public funds for the project.
The motion, moved at an earlier meeting by Coun. Colin Campbell, argues that the deal is not in the best interest of the city.
If the motion passes, the city would advise GTA Sports and Entertainment that it may continue to pursue the site plan approval at its sole discretion, cost and risk.
GTA Sports and Entertainment chairman and CEO Graeme Roustan formally submitted the site plan for the proposed arena last August. At that time, Roustan said he was hoping that construction would begin before the end of 2012.
An artist rendering shows the proposed GTA Centre in Markham. The facility is one of several across Canada that could host a new professional sports team. (Submitted)
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