MARKHAM, Ont. – The City of Markham has approved a multi-million dollar NHL-sized arena after debating on the issue until early Wednesday morning.
The debate ran eight hours and ended in a close vote of 7-6, in favour of moving ahead with the $325-million financing plan.
The proposed 20,000-seat arena would be built near the Highway 407 and Kennedy Road.
According to the plan, the city will borrow half the money initially and pay it back through a levy on new developments, parking revenue and ticket surcharges. The private developer has to come up with the other half.
While some Markham residents view this arena complex as a major economic opportunity, Mayor Frank Scarpitti said it will trigger spin-off activity.
He said 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.
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.
Opponents say the people behind the arena fear-mongered, saying if the city didn’t build the rink it would never get an NHL club, but there’s been no promise from the league that if it does expand that Markham would get a team.