City seeking corporate sponsorships for new sports entertainment centre

City seeking corporate sponsorships for new sports entertainment centre

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Brantford moved one step closer to a new multi-million dollar sports entertainment centre on Tuesday.

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City councillors voted unanimously in favour of spending $735,000 to develop and negotiate business partnerships as well as conducing a due diligence at 79 Market St. S, the preferred location for a new centre. The money is coming from the city’s capital funding reserve.

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“Every city is trying to revitalize their downtown core and we have an opportunity now to do something that will set us up for the next 50 years, just like the civic centre did some 60 years ago,” Coun. Gino Caputo said. “I’ve lived in six different cities and each one built a new arena and what it did to their downtown core was fantastic.

“This is a wonderful opportunity.”

City council last year agreed to look at building a new sports entertainment centre that meets Ontario Hockey League standards as part of a deal that brought the Brantford Bulldogs to the civic centre. Under the deal, the Bulldogs will play their home games at the newly renovated civic centre for the next three years with three one-year options.

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The city hired Ronald Bidulka, managing partner of KKR Advisors Ltd., to lead the project which has so far identified a potential site beside the civic centre and developed a business case for a new centre.

On Tuesday, Bidulka was back before councillors at a special council meeting to share with them ways the sports entertainment centre can be financed.

The centre is expected to cost between $115 million and $140 million.

“What we’ve done is come up with a financing plan, a financing strategy, which is based on a number factors,” Bidulka said. “First, it’s going out to the market place to solicit business partnerships.

“That means going out and securing a long term commitment from the (Brantford) Bulldogs or another sport team tenant.”

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It also means going out and soliciting investment and/or development partnership proposals with individuals and entities wanting to financially participate with the city in the development of the arena. Bidulka said.

As well, it means seeking an entity to prepay the naming rights for the new centre, Bidulka said.

Bidulka cited Place Bell in Laval, PQ and the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, as examples of corporations investing in sports entertainment centres and getting naming rights.

Other sources of financing include the sale of municipally-owned land, tax supported debt and reserves.

“Do you see a positive outcome in finding people in the market place that will work with the city?” Coun. John Sless asked in reference to corporate partnerships.

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“I do,” Bidulka said. “In fact, we’ve already had expressions of interest.”

Sless asked Bidulka to repeat his response.

“We’ve already had unsolicited expressions of interest,” Bidulka said. “Parties informing me that they would like to be involved in this project.”

Sless replied “probably not something that you’d want to discuss publicly.”

Bidulka said “not yet.”

Speaking about the need for a due diligence of 79 Market St. S., Bidulka said there is a lot that isn’t known about the property from archaeological, geo-technical, traffic and transit perspectives.

The due diligence will provide information to the developer who would then be able to come into the project knowing that work has been done. It will also help inform the design process.

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The due diligence will be done at the same time efforts to secure corporate partnerships are underway.
If all goes well, the design could take place between late 2024 through 2025 with construction getting underway in 2026 and the centre opening in 2027.

All councillors spoke in favour of moving forward on the new sport entertainment centre project. They said it would be good for the city but there will be opportunities to back away if it appears the project isn’t feasible.

Coun. Greg Martin called it an exciting project that will help drive development in the lower and upper downtown and be a great morale booster for the city.

“Anyone who has been to a Brantford Bulldogs game has seen the excitement in the arena,” Martin said. “The place is packed and it’s loud.”

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