Markham arena vote: Council keeps venture alive

Stuart Franklin

The Markham City Council kept the hopes of the GTA Centre alive early on Wednesday morning, when it voted against a motion to reject the proposed financial structure of the project.

The Markham City Council voted against a motion to reject the proposed financial structure for the construction of a 20,000 seat arena by a margin of 7-6 early Wednesday morning.

The meeting, which lasted nearly eight hours, began on Tuesday night and featured arguments for and against the financial structure of the funding for the proposed GTA Centre.

Under the proposal that was passed this past spring by a margin of 11-2, the City of Markham would take out a $325 million loan with half of the costs being funded by private investors. The city would pay back its share of the $162.5 million through levies on development projects, parking revenue and surcharges on tickets.

The private portion of the funding would be provided by a group headed by Graeme Roustan (former Bauer Performance Sports Ltd. chairman) and developer Rudy Bratty, a senior executive with The Remington Group, Inc.

One of the biggest concerns by those who oppose the financial plan is any circumstance where the citizens of Markham are required to cover any kind of operating losses by the venture. Mayor Frank Scarpitti stated on Tuesday that Global Spectrum Inc. (the company Roustan proposes will run the arena), would cover the losses based on mutually accepted terms and conditions.

However, neither the terms or the conditions were detailed on Tuesday.

One of the most notable parts of the meeting came when former NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly stated that the NHL had future plans to expand from 30 franchises to 32. With that in mind, he believed Markham needed to build the arena, in order to have a shot at getting an NHL team.

On Wednesday morning, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied that the NHL currently has plans to expand, via ESPN.com:

"There's never been a plan to expand to 32 teams. Whether we talked conceptually at some point if things are going well whether we could expand to 32, I'm sure we suggested we could, but we certainly never reached the point where that was appropriate when Paul Kelly was executive director of the NHLPA and I'd say we haven't got there at this point."

Daly also stated that it is the NHL's suggestion that Markham do what's best for the city and that any decision they make should be independent of the league or the potential of getting a team in the future.

Ultimately, Wednesday morning's vote allowed for the financial structure of the plan to stay in place. While it kept the project alive, there are still other hurdles the venture must take before construction of the arena becomes a reality.

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