At least one arena expert is skeptical about the plan to build a $325 million pro sports arena in the Toronto suburb of Markham without an actual pro sports team to play there:
Riley O’Connor, chair of Live Nation Canada, told the Star on Monday that the arena will need an NHL franchise, other pro hockey or basketball team, because concerts won’t be able to generate enough revenue for a successful business.
“You really need a major tenant to make that happen,” he said. “In almost all major Canadian arenas, that’s an NHL team, an AHL team, a major junior hockey team. You can’t do it on concerts alone.”
That’s significant in large part because Live Nation Canada is a “partner” on the Markham project, which apparently is Canadian for “consultant.” They’re also, of course, one of the largest concert promoters in North America, much beloved for their attentive care to providing a fan-friendly experience.
GTA Sports and Entertainment, which would help fund and then operate the city-built arena, insists that they can make a go of it with 133 events a year; Frank Russo of Global Spectrum, yet another arena manager consulting on the project, told the Toronto Star, “We certainly feel the arena can be viable with 130-plus nights of activity, including some form of hockey — whether it’s NHL or not remains to be seen.”
O’Connor counters that an arena would need more than 200 event days a year to break even, which would require a major sports tenant. Two hundred events a year, where have I heard that number before? Oh, right.