Saturday, November 30, 2013
GTA Centre Markham Arena: Shovels in the ground as early as 2014
“In a best-case scenario, yes,” Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said Saturday.
Added Graeme Roustan, Chairman and CEO of GTA Sports & Entertainment: “Oh ya. Absolutely. We’re ready to go.”
And with there being whispers that the NHL could expand by two teams in 2017 — the league’s 100th anniversary — well, even though both men deny that is the end game of this project, you can connect the dots yourself.
Sure, there are still monetary and bureaucratic hurdles that must be overcome before the first hole is dug. At the same time, a major step, in terms of dollars and cents, appears to have been taken in the process of turning the dream of both Scarpitti and Roustan into a reality.
To that end, the two men held a press conference on Saturday announcing that two memorandums of understanding had been signed between the City of Markham and the private sector, including one from Roustan committing $162.5 million to the project — approximately half of the funds required.
The MOUs still needs to be rubber-stamped by counsellors at a city council meeting on Monday night, but both men are confident that the financial plans will be given the green light.
The second MOU includes a commitment of $70 million from developers, a huge boost to a project that would be constructed near Hwy. 407 and Kennedy Rd.
As it stands, Mayor Scarpitti said about $275 million of the $325 million estimated cost — about 85% — has been committed. That includes:
$162.5 million through Roustan’s signed MOU.
$32.5 million through money from a future arena lease agreement.
$10 million collected through developer contributions.
$70 million as part of an MOU from a group of developers with a $120 million plan to fund the arena.
The mayor is still on the hook to find $50 million in additional funding but apparently many councillors this past week agreed that progress is being made and are said to be willing to give him more time to secure the money needed.
“I always said Markham would attract the GTA Centre and we won’t have to raise taxes to get it,” Scarpitti said.
At the same time, he cautioned that no shortcuts will be taken in this process.
“We’re not in a rush to get there,” Scarpitti said. “We will see a shovel in the ground. We will see the GTA Centre in Markham.”
As for luring a second NHL team to the GTA, both men downplayed the prospect. That’s just the way the suits running the league like it. The less you talk about it, the better your chances are.
Keeping his lips sealed helped Mark Chipman bring the NHL back to Winnipeg. On the other hand, too much chatting played a role in former BlackBerry magnate Jim Balsillie never landing a team.
Fact is, the league would like to put a team in Seattle, a scenario which would leave Quebec City and the GTA fighting it out for that alleged “second franchise.”
Roustan and Scarpitti said there will be no issue filling dates in the new arena even without a full-time NHL tenant. Both the OHL and National women’s hockey league have made inquires about one day occupying the proposed building.
“I can’t promise the world juniors, we’re out of 2015,” Roustan said. “But I can promise no one will work harder to attract hockey at every level. I will go after everything. I will push for future world juniors.
“About 150,000 people move to the GTA every single year,” he added. “This is the largest market in the world that has just one 19,000-seat arena.”
Both men are confident that, given the recent steps that have been taken, that number soon will be two.
Two rinks, that is. And, who knows? Perhaps two NHL teams as well.
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