There’s yet another Markham arena plan afoot, with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti signing two new memorandums of understanding on Saturday that developer Graeme Rouston says will make funding the project come “100 percent from the private sector.” And how does that differ from the last plan that was supposed to do the same?
The breakdown of payments now looks like as follows:
- $162.5 million from arena developer GTA Sports & Entertainment, same as in the original plan approved in April 2012.
- Another $32.5 million in future lease payments from GTASE, based on a future lease that will be written in the future.
- $80 million promised by developers as part of a special fee on new development near the arena, though it’s unclear how the city can go about collecting this if the new development doesn’t actually happen.
- $50 million from … we’ll get back to you on that.
In other words, it’s all pretty much the same plan that it’s been for almost two years, except that now GTASE and other developers are promising that they really will pay all this money, instead of … actually, they always were promising it, but I guess now they’re promising it on paper. Not necessarily enforceable paper, but paper nonetheless.
Between now and then, someone should tell them that they are risking an enormous amount of money for a project that is somewhere between risky and outright insane.
“We have never been encouraging of this project,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, reached by phone on Saturday. “And we have repeatedly said that if this building is built, it should be built with the expectation that they will not get a team.”
On the bright side, the Toronto metro area is a huge market, and there’s some recent evidence that even second arenas in big markets can be a success. On the less bright side, building arenas on spec for teams that never arrive has worked out significantly less well, and hanging financial plans on speculative future housing development around an arena is — “between risky and outright insane” sounds about right. There is much for the Markham council to consider before they get out their rubber stamps.