April 30, 2012
Cities like Seattle, Quebec City, Hartford, Hamilton, Long Island and even Las Vegas have long been pursuing a deal for a new NHL arena. Ironically and in all likelihood, the newest NHL arena will be erected in a city that already has a franchise. The Toronto suburb of Markham has just approved the construction of a $300 million arena which may or may not lure an NHL franchise in the future. The construction costs of the arena will be split 50/50. Half will be contributed by the GTA Centre Limited Partnership and the other half; why the taxpayers, of course. Never mind that no franchise has been guaranteed to Markham nor does the suburb have any type of significant corporate presence for potential club and luxury seating.
While Toronto does boast perhaps the NHL's most popular franchise in the Maple Leafs, many Toronto natives simply can't afford tickets to games. The average price of a ticket to a Maple Leafs game comes in at $76; a league high. Maple Leafs officials will likely reject the notion of a new NHL arena, as will the city of Buffalo, New York. Let's not forget that the Ottawa Senators also play in the same province. Nevertheless, the city still operates in perhaps the largest NHL market with the suburb of Markham alone having more than 300,000 residents.
Markham is considering an opt out clause if Roustan (head of GTA Centre) were unable to help land an NHL franchise. That plan will likely be considered after negotiations with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs) who are more than likely going to ask for compensation.
The best that could come of this proposal would be Markham actually landing an NHL franchise, forming an instant rivalry with the Senators and Maple Leafs and the demand for tickets being identical to that of the Air Canada Centre. Granted, Markham's arena would be one of the largest NHL arenas in the league. This proposal has been speculated for over a year now and has received undecided reception from area residents. Economic researchers suggest that new entertainment venues yield little economic growth for an area and often result in public debt for years to come. Just ask the residents in Cincinnati.
Extracting NHL franchises from southern markets in the United States would be a wise move for a league growing in popularity. The country of Canada has a passion for hockey that is unmatched world-wide. If there is one Canadian city that deserves a franchise and a new NHL arena, it would have to be either Quebec City or Hamilton. Looks like they may have to put those hopes on hold.