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The Globe and Mail

Markham's NHL-ready arena could get green light next week

The next move in building another NHL-ready arena in the Greater Toronto Area will be taken Friday by the Town of Markham council with the green light possibly coming next week.

Council announced Wednesday that the 20,000-seat facilty, tentatively named the Markham Sports, Entertainment and Cultural Centre, will be discussed by council at a meeting Friday afternoon. A second meeting is scheduled for April 26, when it is possible council could approve the project.

Graeme Roustan, the chairman of Bauer Performance Sports Ltd., is behind the $300-million project, which is planned to be built at Highway 407 and Kennedy Road. The only communication from Roustan on Wednesday was a statement issued through GTA Sports and Entertainment, the company he formed for the venture: "[Roustan]and his team were delighted to present this opportunity to the Town of Markham and to be given the chance to communicate the benefits the development will bring to Markham and the GTA region. We'll continue to answer any questions they have in the coming weeks."

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So far, Roustan has been careful to say he and his partners, which include real-estate tycoon Rudy Bratty, are not planning to land an NHL franchise, just compete for concerts and other events with the Toronto Maple Leafs' Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto.

"Absolutely not," Roustan told The Globe and Mail last winter. "I have no expectations of having a professional sports franchise as a tenant in this building.

"It's my understanding that the GTA is the largest market in North America that only has one 20,000-seat multi-use facility, world class, like the Air Canada Centre. There's no doubt that there's room for another one."

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, who has said the arena is council's "priority No. 1," could not be immediately reached for comment.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said several times that Roustan and his partners were told not to proceed with the idea a second NHL franchise for the GTA would follow the building of the arena.

Roustan hopes to begin construction at some point in 2012 with completion scheduled for 2014.

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