OHL for civic cen­tre?

Coun­cil­lors want to know cost of up­grad­ing 50- year- old arena

The Expositor (Brantford) - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT BALL EXPOSITOR STAFF

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.

BRIAN THOMPSON/ THE EXPOSITOR

City coun­cil­lors are sup­port­ing spend­ing $ 150,000 to de­ter­mine the cost to up­grade the civic cen­tre to On­tario Hockey League stan­dards.

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