A 20,000-seat suburban arena that could ultimately be home to the Greater Toronto Area’s second NHL team and the 2015 World Junior Championship is one step closer to becoming reality. In fact, it’s expected shovels will be in the ground this summer and the facility will be open by the fall of 2014.
The city of Markham (a suburb of Toronto) announced that it will hold two meetings on the proposed Markham Sports, Entertainment and Cultural Centre. The first meeting is scheduled for Friday and is open to the public and is designed to solicit public input into the project. The second meeting is a special meeting of the council scheduled for April 26, at which time the 13-member council will vote on whether or not to approve construction of the facility. The project will require seven votes to pass.
Meanwhile, THN.com has learned that Graeme Roustan, the chairman of the hockey equipment giant Bauer and the driving force behind the arena, has already made a formal application to Hockey Canada to host the 2015 World Junior Championship. If the bid were accepted, it would mark the first time in history the tournament has been held in Canada’s largest city.
Should the arena be approved, and there’s no reason to believe it will not at this point, construction will begin this summer, as will speculation about if and when a second NHL team could land in Toronto. Roustan has maintained all along that the league has made him no guarantees concerning relocation or expansion and that his facility can be self-sufficient from a financial standpoint without an anchor NHL tenant.
But the reality is this is a $300 million project being built in the most fertile, underserviced hockey market in the world and Roustan is a hockey guy through and through. In fact, he came very close to purchasing the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens and has made no secret of his desire to own an NHL team. He owns a company that has built hundreds of indoor rinks in North America and is currently in partnership with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators to build outdoor rinks to service underprivileged communities.
“We are aware (the facility) is being contemplated,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last year. “Yes, we have had discussions with Mr. Roustan and he has been informed that in deciding whether to proceed (or not) with the project, he should assume that no NHL franchise will be forthcoming. There is no current contemplation of locating an NHL franchise in Markham.”
That, however, will not halt speculation concerning the possibility of an NHL team relocating to Toronto. One of the reasons why Winnipeg got the Atlanta Thrashers last summer was the city had a ready-made arena to which the team could move. And while the Maple Leafs believe they have the legal right to veto any team moving into their geographic territory, the league has already gone on the record saying that is not the case.