Toronto’s executive committee has voted unanimously to allow Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to build a new basketball facility on the Exhibition grounds.
The facility will serve as a practice facility for the Toronto Raptors, but MLSE stressed it will be a community centre as well.
The NBA team will occupy about a third of the facility, with the rest of the space and time open to community basketball teams and leagues.
The building’s $30-million price tag and all operating and upkeep costs will be covered by MLSE. The facility will be a city-owned asset, leased to MLSE for up to 30 years at market rent.
“This will give us a state of the art training centre as good as any in the NBA,” MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke said to the executive committee.
Leiweke said the 2016 All-Star Game, to be hosted in Toronto, will be a chance to showcase how far the team has come and entice players.
“Despite what people thought a year ago, the Raptors are an up-and-coming team. We are the Atlantic Division champions. And we intend on improving this team and committing whatever resources necessary to making a run at the championship,” said Leiweke.
“This will prove to the league and to the players in the league that this is an organization committed to winning and Toronto is one of best places to live in all the NBA.”
The MLSE deal with the city includes a $2-million donation to the parks department to build and maintain basketball courts throughout the city.
Executive committee members spoke of the chance to develop basketball across the city as an opportunity for youth.
“Like Coun. Thompson said, basketball is taking off like we never thought it would,” said Mayor Ford.
Referring to Canadian players who went first overall in the last two NBA drafts, Ford said he would include a motion when the item goes to council to give some teams, like those based in Toronto Community Housing, discounted rates to use the new facility.
“There are many more Mr. Bennets and Mr. Wiggins out there and we have to get them exposed to what we’re building down there at Exhibition Place,” said Ford.
The executive committee is also discussing the Scarborough Subway extension, night flights out of Pearson airport and parking tickets.
This is Mayor Rob Ford’s second executive committee meeting since returning from rehab on June 30.