City of Brantford Council voted in favour of conducting a public consultation campaign regarding a proposal for the new Sports and Entertainment Centre during their regular meeting on Tuesday, November 28, 2023.
When the City first signed the deal with the Bulldogs, part of the agreement was to explore building a new facility for the team in order to keep them in the city long term.
The proposed new arena is set to be built beside the existing Civic Centre and is estimated to cost anywhere between $115 million to $140 million.
As part of the first phase of the project, Staff and KKR Advisors, put together an initial assessment and found that the city has rare opportunity with this project.
“The initial assessment revealed that Branford has a rare and social economic opportunity to elevate our national sports status and revitalize the city’s core, drawing in tourism and drawing in world class entertainment,” said Brian Hutchings, CAO of Brantford.
Ron Bidulka, Managing Director of KKR, highlighted that there is a growing population “and more importantly, growing income in this community.”
On September 7, 2023, the business case assessment showed that the city could support an OHL team, as well as how big the arena should be (5,300 seats).
The second phase of the project included a site assessment and Staff were directed to look at several locations for the new centre. Out of the ten potential sites, Hutchings, noted that the spot adjacent to the Civic Centre ranked the highest of them all.
“The site benefits from existing parking, there are 950 parking spaces in the [Market Centre] parkade and other parking around it,” said Hutchings. “As well, the official plan designates this as an area that’s cultural in entertainment and an administrative heart of the city, a key shopping district and destination for residents, students, tourists and businesses and has high economic impact potential for critical masses of use to people in complementary developments that are currently prepared for the area.”
The new arena has been designed to hold a capacity of 5,300 people (seats, barstools and standing room) and will work in tandem with the Civic Centre.
Councillor Dan McCreary asked that based on the drawings of the proposed building, if it would be right to assume that the new building would be a “twinning of the Civic Centre with a modern and large arena entertainment complex to maximize efficiency and operating costs?”
“That’s exactly what we’re looking at. It would let us use the back end of the building and share the Zambonis and those sorts of things back and forth between the two buildings,” replied Hutchings. “One could be a practice facility, one can be a game facility, those sorts of things, so there’s lots of possible uses for both. … It’s actually a very well needed amenity to the larger building.”
Because the City has already spent roughly $7.2 million on renovations since the team’s move to the Civic Centre, Hutchings said they absolutely want to keep it.
As far as parking concerns go, Hutchings noted that there is plenty of parking in the Market Centre parkade, though it is not often used.
“We’re still only seeing 50 to 60 spots being used the parkade, which we know is what three minutes up the road, so people are choosing to park as close as they possibly can, but they still have another 920 spaces sitting at the parkade that are sitting open,” he said. “So if the building were built, the parkade is right there and it’d become one of our biggest assets in this community.”
Kevin Davis, Mayor for the City of Brantford said that people may be wondering why the Civic Centre isn’t good enough.
“Well, we’ve got an arena it’s about 60 years old, and yes, we’ve made recent modifications, but those modifications they barely meet OHL standards,” he said.
Constructing a new building will give the City a better chance at keeping the Bulldogs.
“Why would we want the Bulldogs here long term? This arena entertainment centre will provide increased opportunities for families to participate in local entertainment and recreational events,” said Davis. “They won’t be going to Kitchener, London, Hamilton, or Toronto and we will keep more of that money, and more of that activity here in Brantford. The economic impact is potentially, with the team here, is $7.6 million per year, and that’s not only the wages and the cost of running this new sports entertainment centre, but it’s all the spin off economic benefit that it has. That’s $6 million in wages, that’s more wages for people in our community, for families in our community.”
Going forward, as part of phase two, Hutchings noted that the City will be taking part in a public consultation campaign regarding the proposal.
“Whereby the community will be consulted for their input regarding venue features and uses related to the new sports and entertainment center adjacent to and including the current Civic Centre site at 79 Market St. with findings to be reported to council as part of the phase three report in January 2024,” he said.
The campaign will run throughout the month of December, via survey through the Lets Talk Brantford forum.
“We will see the community’s reaction to whether or not something like this is something that would excite them and how they would like to see it used,” said Maria Visochi, Director of Communications for the City of Brantford. “…The way in which this project is shaped, is something that is informed by public input.”
The vote to approve and move forward with the public consultation was carried on a vote of 9-0, noting that councillors Richard Carpenter and Rose Sicoli were not present.