- Change text size for the story
- Print this story
Report an error
- Proposed Markham arena would rival ACC
- Private case to fund proposed $325M Markham sports complex
- Public gets a chance to examine Markham sports complex proposal
Town councillors gambled Thursday night on the success of a proposed $325-million sports and entertainment complex by agreeing to borrow half the money.
In an 11-to-2 vote, the 13-member council voted to borrow $162.5 million for 20 years, with development partners bankrolling an equal amount and agreeing to give the centre to the town which would profit from a lease-back deal, plus ticket sales and parking fees.
Sports entrepreneur W. Graeme Roustan and real estate billionaire Rudy Bratty pledged to bankroll the remaining $162.5 million for the proposed 20,000-seat, 600,000-square-foot Markham Sports, Entertainment and Cultural Centre also called the GTA Centre.
This is an exciting opportunity for Markham, Mayor Frank Scarpitti said after the last public delegate finished speaking at 10 pm, and before councillors addressed the meeting prior to the 11:16 pm final vote.
Reminding councillors that they were briefed during in-camera meetings over the past 18 months, Scarpitti said council only agreed to the shared financial partnership deal.
In future months, as more steps in the project are proposed, council can reject subsequent stages they find unacceptable, he said.
This is far from the end of the process, Scarpitti said. Were quite a ways from getting a shovel in the ground … there is a lot of work to be done.
He predicted the exciting proposal would attract more business, sports and housing construction near the site as part of a major expansion in an area called Markham Town Centre.
Additional residential surcharges levied on new condominiums and apartments would offset a major portion of the towns 20-year-loan, but a builders group representative told council her members regard the extra fees as unfair.
Scarpitti said property values will increase with new construction near the site, and developers will profit proportionately.
The two holdouts, York Regional Councillors Jim Jones and Joe Li, opposed the town financing the project, saying it should be a privately-financed, privately-run facility, like other large sports and entertainment complexes.
Li criticized councils decision to hold in-camera meetings and urged colleagues to be more transparent and open future discussions to the public.
Scarpitti defended the private talks, stiffly reminding Li that council adheres to Ontario Municipal Act guidelines, to avoid lawsuits and offered to give him a copy.
I dont think weve done anything inappropriate, the mayor said.
Roustan told reporters he and his partners hope to start construction near Kennedy Rd. and Hwy. 407 late this summer or early fall, with the complexs opening predicted for the fall of 2014.
Town CAO Andy Taylor said even if costs rise and the complex fails to meet expectations for concerts, sports, art shows, an art gallery, plus public events, households would pay only $160 each over five years to cover the loan.
As councillors and about 150 gallery visitors listened to his presentation earlier — with some residents expressing doubts about elected officials having time to properly digest details — Taylor predicted no tax rate increase related to the building of this facility.
He said additional public transit bus routes and parking would be provided and more than 600 jobs would be created for construction of the complex.
One of the big draws for the complex would be a second National Hockey League team for the GTA, but Roustan, CEO of GTA Sports amp; Entertainment, and Bratty, head of the Remington Group of developers, insisted their plans do not rely on landing a second franchise.
The developers said Live Nation, a partner in the project, will book events that are expected to attract 780,000 annual paying visitors.
There has been overwhelming support from the community, Roustan told reporters.
At the first public meeting last Friday, he promised to work non-stop to bring the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship to Markham, which would stand a good chance if the complex is finished the previous fall.
His assistant on Thursday gave reporters a copy of Hockey Canada president and CEO Bob Nicholsons letter to Roustan last Oct. 17, which promised to consider his new facility when the 2015 word Junior Championships venue is being considered and welcomed the project.
Several local sports leaders lauded the project.
Bruce Jackson, president of the 50-year-old Markham Waxers Junior A hockey team, said his group is excited … at the prospects of a facility like this, which will enthuse young players.
This is a fabulous thing, he said.
There will be three more public meetings to discuss the next stages of the project, with councils motion asking staff to keep reviewing plans and consider applications from other investors.
Tags: Sports Entertainment