New hope for Markham’s GTA Centre

Ken Campbell
GTA Centre Markam
Rendering of GTA Centre in Markham. (BBB Architects)

A proposed new NHL-caliber arena for the Toronto suburb of Markham got a huge boost Monday when it was announced that a major land transfer agreement has been reached between one of Canada’s biggest land developers and the City of Markham.

After a committee meeting Monday, it was announced that an agreement to transfer of seven acres of land from developer Rudy Bratty to the City of Markham had been reached in June. At the same meeting it was also announced that a motion to have the arena project killed has been deferred and will likely never see the light of day.

All of which means that prospects of the arena being built in the Toronto suburb have never looked more promising. And with a building in place, it makes it much easier for the NHL to justify putting another NHL team in the most underserviced hockey market in the world.

With the land transfer, GTA Sports and Entertainment Centre CEO Graeme Roustan can now set about to securing his half of the $325 million needed to build the arena from investment banks. The other half – $162.5 million – will be collected using a voluntary levy on developers of between $2,000 and $4,000 per unit on new condominium units built near the new arena.

Until Monday, there had been a motion tabled by deputy mayor Jack Heath to vote on killing the existing financial framework for the arena slated for Oct. 15. Council voted 7-6 in its general committee to defer that motion, basically meaning in local politics parlance that it has been all but killed. Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti, meanwhile, also announced Monday that there will be a memorandum of agreement put before the city council by the end of November, which will include all the details of the proposed deal between the city and the GTA Centre.

The land transfer agreement is a huge development for the future of the rink. Basically, it means the city gets the land from The Remington Group, which is headed by Bratty, which it will lease back to the GTA Centre, along with the building once it is completed. GTA Sports and Entertainment will manage the building.

This comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Roustan that he has secured funding for his half of the arena and does not need the City of Markham to guarantee a loan for $162.5 million. Critics of the plan have long contended that the city should not be involved in the project and tax dollars should not be used. Even though the city was only guaranteeing the loan and no property tax money was being used, Roustan’s announcement guarantees the building will be almost fully privately funded.