Corp Comm Connects

NHL in Markham? Sure, if privately funded, councillor says
June 28, 2015
Laura Finney  

Could an NHL team still come to Markham?

It may feel a little like déjà vu, but on Wednesday, Graeme Roustan, CEO of GTA Sports and Entertainment said in an interview with The Hockey News that he intends to make a pitch for an NHL team in the GTA, and that he would revisit the idea of going to Markham.

“I will defiantly be making an application on behalf of the GTA,” he said. “I’ve always believed that a second NHL team in Toronto would flourish and I’ve been preparing since 2010 for this possibility.”

But Markham councillor Karen Rea said she would not support using any public money to build an arena in Markham.

“I’m not interested in putting any taxpayers’ money into an NHL arena, because there is no proof that it would be viable,” she said.

In 2012, a 20,000-seat arena was first proposed with the support of Mayor Frank Scarpitti by Roustan in a public-private partnership that would see the city securing financing to build the NHL-size arena in Markham’s new downtown centre.

However after public objections, councillors voted not to put public money behind the project.

“Markham city council made it perfectly clear in December 2013 that we are not interested in a publicly funded arena,” said Rea.

But she noted she would not be against a team coming to Markham, if it was privately funded.

“The majority of people are okay with having an NHL arena and an NHL team providing it’s privately built, owned and operated,” she said.

Rea has been pushing for the release of consultants reports on the failed arena project that cost Markham taxpayers more than $700,000.

If there is a renewed effort to bring a team to the city, it will be expensive.

Along with arena costs, which Rea said would be about $500 million, the cost of a franchise could be around $500 million.

Additionally, she said, they would have to buy the land, pay development fees and property taxes.

“If somebody wants to come in here with $1.2 billion, you are more than welcome,” she said.

On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement that the league is opening an expansion review process to consider whether to add new franchises.

He cited Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City as the markets that have expressed the most serious interest, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has given his support to Quebec.

Many view a team in Markham as unlikely given its close proximity to Toronto, home of the Maple Leafs.

The league hasn't made decisions on a timeline, terms of expansion or the number of clubs to be added.

The NHL doesn't anticipate adding teams before the 2017-18 season, according to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.