There was some heated debate at Markham city council, Tuesday night, as councillors prepared to vote on whether to contribute taxpayer money to build an NHL-sized arena complex.
The proposed 20,000-seat arena would be built near the Highway 407 and Kennedy Road. The cost of the project is estimated at about $350-million.
The building would be big enough to house an NHL team, since it would include an regulation-sized ice-rink.
It will be funded by both taxpayers and a private developer, GTA Centre and Partners.
While some Markham residents view this arena complex as a major economic opportunity, Mayor Frank Scarpitti said it will trigger spin-off activity.
He says the arena would create 1,600 jobs and bring more than $60 million of economic impact to the community.
“And that’s without an NHL team, if we ever were to get an NHL team then the economic impact would double,” Scarpitti said.
The arena would also be about a lot more than hockey, according to Scarpitti.
“We’ll be in a position to attract cultural events, rock concerts, trade shows,” he said.
However, some councillors and many citizens, including a group of builders and Markham City Village Ratepayers Association, oppose the plan. They say taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be used to help promote a private business venture.
Hundreds of area residents came out to Markham council chambers on Tuesday to have their say on the matter. Shortly before midnight council voted to extend the session into the early morning hours to accommodate the approximately 70 people still waiting to speak.
The funding plan calls for Markham to borrow $325-million to build the arena complex, and then the private partner would pay back half of that money over a 20-year span through development fees and ticket surcharges.
The money from the city would, at least partly, be raised through a special levy.
“$5,000 on each new home, and $2,000 on each new condo that gets built in Markham over the next 20 years,” Scarpitti said.
Some critics argue the plan is backwards — building a project long before there’s any kind of a guarantee about an NHL team or any other major tenant to put in the building.
- With files from CityNews