Toronto-area council gives go ahead to NHL-calibre arena
Published Friday, April 27, 2012 10:49PM EDT
The decision to support construction of an NHL-calibre arena in Markham, Ont., received enthusiastic support from Mayor Frank Scarpitti on Friday, who called it an "exciting development" for the community just north of Toronto.
In a vote of 10-2, Markham municipal council approved a partnership framework for the creation of a 20,000-seat sports and entertainment centre.
The agreement with GTA Sports and Entertainment will see the $325-million GTA Centre built at the Unionville GO Station.
The cost will be split between private investors and the local development community. The complex would be owned entirely by the Town of Markham.
"Markham Council's decision to approve the financial framework and partnership for the Markham Sports, Entertainment and Cultural Centre represents the significant first step in bringing the new Centre to Markham," Scarpitti said in a statement.
"While there are many more steps and public consultations to follow, this is a very exciting development for Markham that promises to bring a world class venue for sports, entertainment and culture. Not only will the Centre provide a state-of-the-art facility for professional events but also one which will incorporate a number of community uses."
Under the financial framework, developer Rudy Bratty will 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 provide $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.
There will be no property tax impact to Marham residents, the town said.
The proposal 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.
"We are beyond pleased that Markham has decided to continue this partnership and will work with us to finalize an agreement on the construction of this facility," Roustan said in a statement. "This is a great day for Markham and for the GTA."
He said the Greater Toronto Area community 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.
Some councillors expressed skepticism before the vote on Thursday, 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.