After an impassioned debate and plenty of local residents speaking out against the plan, a proposed new Markham arena survived another vote on the $325-million project — albeit by a slim 7-6 margin.
The meeting of the Markham City Council had one huge agenda item: whether the suburban Toronto city should move ahead with a plan to borrow $325 million to finance construction of a new NHL-quality arena. Markham would borrow the entire $325-million construction cost, with developer Remington directly repaying $162.5 million and the rest covered by development fees on builders and ticket surcharges. If the fees and ticket surcharges came in below estimates, local taxpayers would be on the hook for the rest.
That potential risk is what has some local citizens on edge, and they expressed their outrage last night, in a meeting that lasted until 3 a.m. From the National Post:
Paul Kelly, the former executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, was sitting next to [Graeme] Roustan before taking the microphone to address council. Kelly said he was not acting as a paid consultant, and that he had come on his own time, and his own money — but he also said he offered Roustan his advice.
“This is your opportunity, citizens of Markham,” Kelly told the audience in council chambers. “If you don’t act now and keep this project moving forward, you will likely never again have the opportunity to secure an NHL team.”
The vote to preserve the financial framework does not mean the arena has been approved. There are still a number of issues to be resolved — including a memorandum of understanding with the city.
Indeed. There are still plenty of points along the highway for this project to collapse, with a developer still needing to raise capital. Still, with some folks close to the NHL whispering expansion — as we detailed here — the allure of a local franchise should be a pretty powerful incentive for local officials to move forward with the project.