The plans for a new arena in the Greater Toronto Area to compete with the Air Canada Centre took another step forward Thursday night when the Markham town council approved a financial partnership between its principals and the town.
Graeme Roustan, the chairman of Bauer Performance Sports Ltd., and prominent developer Rudy Bratty are the driving forces behind GTA Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the company which plans to build the 20,000-seat arena and surrounding development on land owned by Markham and Bratty along Highway 407 between Warden Avenue and Kennedy Road.
While Roustan's group and Markham officials say the $325-million project, which is expected to be open in the fall of 2014, will eventually receive 90 per cent of its funding from the private sector, the town is putting up half of the cost. Council voted 11-2 on Thursday to borrow $162.5-million over 20 years. Roustan and Bratty's group is putting up the other half and Markham will own the arena.
Supporters of the deal say Markham will pay for most of the loan through surcharges on new condominiums and apartments. The town is also supposed to make money by leasing back the arena, parking fees and a portion of ticket sales.
Roustan, the chairman of GTA Sports and Entertainment, and an influential figure in the hockey world, has been careful to say the arena does not depend on landing a second NHL franchise to survive. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Roustan's group was told not to expect a franchise, either through location or expansion, although that has not stopped speculation about the possibility.
"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 press release. "The GTA is thriving and the demand for sport and cultural entertainment venues far outstrips the supply of available space.
"Markham is the perfect location for this facility for several reasons, including proximity to major transit, a diverse and growing population, and a location in the approximate centre of the GTA."