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Financial framework for 20,000-seat Markham arena passes city council vote, 7-6

The $325 million financial framework for a new 20,000-seat arena in Markham, Ont., has survived a city council vote.

The project, headed by former Bauer chairman Graeme Roustan and backed by developer Rudy Bratty, was challenged in Markham city council at a nearly eight-hour meeting and survived by a narrow 7-6 vote.

The financial plan, originally approved by an 11-2 vote in council last spring, has the city borrowing the $325 million cost of the arena, with its private partners covering half the cost. The city's plan is to pay back its half through a controversial levy on new housing projects, parking revenue and a surcharge on event tickets in the new building.

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti announced at the meeting that Global Spectrum Inc, the company that would supposedly manage the arena, would cover potential operating losses "based on mutually acceptable terms and conditions," which weren't defined.

The proposal's opponents argued taxpayer money shouldn't be used in such a project. There are concerns that, if an NHL team doesn't come to the new building, it would become a white elephant for the city.

Of the many speakers at the marathon Tuesday night session, former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly insisted "if you build it, they will come," in reference to the NHL.

Mayor Scarpitti voted in support of the project, along with councillors Gordon Landon, Howard Shore, Carolina Moretti, Alex Chiu, Alan Ho and Logan Kanapathi. Voting against the plan were deputy mayor Jack Heath, and councillors Joe Li, Colin Campbell, Don Hamilton, Valerie Burke and Jim Jones.

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