Graeme Roustan was the runner-up to the Molson family to purchase the Montreal Canadiens when the famed NHL franchise was up for sale in 2009.
The Montreal native is now the driving force behind the proposed construction of a 20,000-seat arena in Markham, Ont.
But Roustan insists securing a NHL franchise to play out of a new facility just north of Toronto that could provide an alternative to the established Toronto Maple Leafs is not something he will be seeking.
“Absolutely not,” he stated emphatically in a telephone interview Wednesday, when asked about his future plans for the proposed arena. “I have no expectations of having a professional sports franchise as a tenant in this building.”
Roustan is the chairman and chief executive officer of GTA Sports and Entertainment, which is hoping to build an arena in the heart of Markham’s ongoing downtown development project known as Markham Centre. He is also chairman of hockey equipment maker Bauer Performance Sports Ltd.
Toronto real estate mogul Rudy Bratty is also part of the group pushing for the new building.
Roustan said he hopes to bring an official proposal to the Town of Markham early in 2012, and if all goes according to plan, construction on the $300-million project could begin later in the year, with a potential opening in 2014.
Roustan said business proposals have led him to believe an arena in this location would be a financial success relying on upwards of 100 concert and other cultural events a year.
“It’s my understanding that the GTA is the largest market in North America that only has one 20,000-seat multiuse facility, world class, like the Air Canada Centre,” he said. “There’s no doubt that there’s room for another one.”
The proposed site is in the Highway 407 corridor near Kennedy Road.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail that the league has spoken with Markham officials on the subject of the new arena proposal for the community.
Daly reiterated that in no way should the proposed development be dependent on an NHL franchise eventually landing there.
“If it doesn’t make sense to build it without an NHL tenant, then they shouldn’t build it,” Daly wrote. “And that’s what we told them.”