A proposed new sports and entertainment centre drew enthusiasm, some skepticism and questions at a public meeting on Monday.
Don Maunder, one of more than 75 people to attend the meeting in the Bulldogs Lounge at the civic centre, is in favour of a new arena.
“I grew up here and I remember the Brantford Alexanders from back in the 1980s,” Maunder, 59, said. “I also remember Massey’s and White Farm and all of those other industries.
“The community has really changed and it’s growing.”
Maunder said he never thought he’s see an OHL team back in Brantford in his lifetime.
“I can take my grandson to OHL games without having to get on Highway 403 and travel out of town,” Maunder said. “I think Brantford money should stay in Brantford.”
The Brantford Alexanders played in the Ontario Hockey League from 1978 to 1984. The city was without an OHL team until the Hamilton Bulldogs, in need of a place to play, moved to Brantford.
Now called, the Brantford Bulldogs, the team plays its home games at the civic centre under a three-year deal with the city. The deal requires the city to develop a proposal for a new arena and entertainment centre large enough to accommodate an OHL team.
The city hired KKR Advisors to help with the proposal and a report made public in November identified 79 Market St. S. – the civic centre property – as the best location for a new sports and entertainment facility. The proposal calls for the new centre to be built beside the existing facility.
The new centre would cost between $115 million and $140 million with a seating capacity of between 5,000 to 5,300.
Following the release of the report, the city embarked on a public consultation plan that includes and online survey which can be found at https://letstalkbrantford.ca/sec?tool=survey_tool#tool_tab and Monday’s public meeting. The meeting included a presentation from Ron Bidulka of KKR advisors, Maria Visocchi, the city’s director, communications, community engagement and customer service, and Brian Hutchings, the city’s CAO.
Bidulka went through the report that identified 79 Market St. S. as the preferred location and how it could benefit the the city. The report can be viewed at https://pub-brantford.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=18678 .
Still, there were questions about where the money for the sports entertainment centre would come from especially when the city needs a new hospital. A new hospital is projected to cost more than $1 billion.
There were also questions about parking and what would happen to the existing civic centre.
Bidulka said the existing civic centre would continue to be used as a practice facility for the OHL team. It could also be used by Brantford Minor Hockey and for other sports and events.
Parking is being addressed a number of ways including maximizing use of the municipal parking garage or parkade on Icomm Drive, just a short walk from 79 Market St. S.
Details about possible funding sources and financing partnerships are expected early next year when the next phase of the KKR report is due. It’s expected that the centre will be developed through some sort of private sector partnership.
There was also a question about where the money for a new hospital would come from.
Those attending the meeting were told health care and the funding of hospitals is a provincial responsibility. However, the broader community, which includes Brantford, Brant County and Six Nations will be required to cover about 10 per cent of the cost.
A new hospital is about eight to 10 years away from becoming a reality and the city’s share of the cost is projected to be about $90 million.
The city has set aside $8.5 million for the hospital already and more will be set aside in the future. Plans call for the city to have about $40 million for the hospital within eight to 10 years. Additional funding will come from other sources including the broader community and debentures.
While some in the audience were skeptical of the city’s ability to support an OHL team, Bidulka cited positive reports about the city’s project growth in employment and population.
“I don’t think Mr. Andlauer was brave to come to Brantford,” Bidulka said of Michael Andlauer, owner of the Bulldogs and the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. “I think he was smart to come to Brantford.”