OHL for civic centre?
Councillors want to know cost of upgrading 50- year- old arena
City councillors want to know how much it would cost to upgrade the civic centre, which marked its 50th anniversary last year, to Ontario Hockey League standards.
Councillors at a committee meeting this week voted 6- 3 in favour of spending up to $ 150,000 to hire an architectural firm to get a basic design concept and cost estimate for upgrades. Their recommendation will come up for approval when city council meets on June 26.
“The intent is get a number ( cost estimate) so that we can have a discussion,” Ward 2 Coun. John Sless said. “I think this is a good thing to do.
“Cities are known by their teams and there are people with serious money and backing that might choose to come to Brantford.”
The proposal also was supported by Mayor Chris Friel and councillors Rick Weaver ( Ward 1), John Utley ( Ward 2), Cheryl Antoski ( Ward 4) and Brian Van Tilborg ( Ward 5). Opposed were councillors Larry Kings ( Ward 1), Dan McCreary ( Ward 3) and Richard Carpenter ( Ward 4).
Coun. Greg Martin ( Ward 3) was absent and Coun. David Neumann ( Ward 5) left the meeting prior to the vote.
The issue was brought to councillors by city parks- recreation staff, who said they often receive enquiries from OHL teams considering moves to Brantford.
“Over the past few years, there has been increasing interest from OHL teams seeking to establish themselves in Brantford,” states a parks- recreation department report. “For this to be considered, major renovations would be required to the building and ice service.” Specifically, the civic centre would need to increase its present seating capacity of about 3,000 to 5,000 to 6,000 and extend its ice surface by about three metres. Also needed would be a new video display board, expanded concessions area. dedicated retail space for a team store, as well as office space for eight to 10 people. The upgrades also would include space for hockey operations, including a workout room, sauna, storage and video room.
“The option to attract an OHL team to our city could have significant sport tourism potential as proven in other cities who host a junior A team,” the report states.
“Information staff received indicates financial impacts of between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million annually in new business revenues,” states the report, adding that OHL arenas have been credited with rebuilding municipal downtowns in a number of cities.
Knowing what is required to renovate the civic centre would enable parks- recreation staff to better consider opportunities that come to the city, the report notes. Discussions with interested groups could then focus on the need for sponsorship or fundraising to fund necessary renovations to make the facility OHL ready.
At present, staff can’t have those kinds of discussions because they don’t know how much it would cost to upgrade the civic centre, councillors were told.
But McCreary called the study unaffordable.
“I can’t support an expenditure like this to lure a junior A team,” he said.
“Every OHL junior A inquiry has wanted the City of Brantford to foot the $ 10- to $ 20- million renovation and they don’t necessarily stay in their new community long.”
But Friel said if councillors want to turn down funding for the study they should put the issue to rest by declaring that the city is not interested in having an OHL team.
“Then, I could put a stop to the phone calls and say that, as a city, we’ve made the choice and we’re out of it,” Friel said.
The civic centre was home to the Brantford Alexanders, an OHL major junior A team that operated from 1978 to 1984.
It is now home to the Brantford Blast of Major League Hockey and the minor church hockey Brantford Saints.
City councillors are supporting spending $ 150,000 to determine the cost to upgrade the civic centre to Ontario Hockey League standards.