Markham council votes for 20,000-seat arena
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 11:26PM EDT
Markham municipal council has taken a major step towards the creation of a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment centre.
In a vote of 10-2, council approved a partnership and financial framework of an agreement with GTA Sports and Entertainment to build the facility.
The $325-million GTA Centre would be built at the Unionville GO Station and the cost would be split between private investors and the local development community.
The complex would be owned entirely by the Town of Markham.
The plan would see developer Rudy Bratty give the town of Markham six acres to build the arena near Unionville GO station.
On top of that, GTA Sports and Entertainment head Graeme Roustan said he would add in $162 million, the cost of half the arena, and then turn the arena over to the town, which would finance the other half through levies, ticket sales, parking revenue and rent money as the town leases the building.
The proposal, which required a majority vote to pass, touted the facility as an ideal location for concerts, sporting and cultural events, as well as trade shows and community gatherings.
Its proximity to Toronto could make it a direct competitor to the downtown Air Canada Centre for trade shows and concerts in the area.
Roustan called the Greater Toronto Area an "under-served market" when it comes to sports arenas.
He said the Greater Toronto Area is the only community that has five million people, and the market is growing by 150,000 people a year.
Roustan said groups are trying to move the proposal forward as fast as possible because he plans to bid on bringing the World Junior Hockey Championships to Markham for 2014.
While the consortium says the plan does not rely on hosting an NHL team in the arena, there is speculation that the arena could be used to lure a second franchise to the Toronto area in the future.
Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti said the centre would not be like other sports venues across the country, where one event ticket would provide access to the entire centre.
However, some councillors expressed skepticism earlier in the day, calling the deal too good to be true.
"I think it's too good, right," said Coun. Joe Li. "I have to be honest, I am a hockey fan, but I'm not prepared to do at all costs, just for the sake of building an arena. At the end, I have to protect the interests of Markham residents."
According to the proposal, the GTA Centre would create 600 construction jobs over the next two years and 886 positions once the arena is complete. It would also give the local economy an estimated $61.1 million boost annually.
With files from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney