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Residents express anger at Markham arena plans

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Noor Javed Staff Reporter

Details and artistic renderings of the $325-million Markham arena were unveiled at a public meeting on Wednesday night, which was intended to answer residents’ questions swirling around the project that will be funded in part by taxpayer money.

More than 100 residents sat through numerous presentations from staff and consultants on how the 22,000-seat arena will fit into the vision for Markham’s new downtown near Hwy. 7 and Warden Ave., the architectural details of the 700,000 sq.-ft. arena, and a traffic and transit analysis.

“I have been on the road, and the buzz about the GTA centre here in Markham is all over North America. It’s a very exciting project and I’m very excited to be a part of it,” said Graeme Roustan, chairman and CEO of GTA Sports and Entertainment, one of the main partners in the project who was at the meeting with his “team of consultants” to answer questions.

Many of the residents expressed concerns about who would pay for the big plans.

“What I have seen so far, everything is wonderful, actually it’s grandiose, and that’s not my concern at all. The only issue I have is who’s paying for it. And I don’t like the answers there,” said Donna Bush, vice president of Markham Village City Ratepayers Association. She gave examples of arenas in Ontario that have been unable to lure an NHL team and have become financially strapped as a result. Others stressed that the arena should be completely privately funded and owned.

The next step will be approving a site plan application, which the town anticipates will be submitted this summer. According to Roustan, plans are underway to have the arena built in time to compete for the hockey World Junior Championships in 2015.

In April, Markham council voted 11-to-2 to back a financial plan that would bring a NHL-sized arena — and potentially an NHL team — to the community north of Toronto. But both local officials and Roustan have continuously stressed that the facility will be used as an entertainment and cultural centre “first and will have a secondary use as a sports facility.”

The $325-million is being funded through a “unique” public-private deal that will see half of the costs paid for by future development in Markham and revenue from the centre when it opens. Markham will borrow money to pay for the construction. They will be reimbursed for half of that cost by the private group headed by Roustan and financially backed by Rudy Bratty of the Remington Group Inc.

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