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‘A lot of questions’ to answer before Brantford sports centre gets go-ahead, mayor says

The mayor of Brantford, Ont., says despite approving some $735,000 to seek out corporate sponsors for a proposed new sports and entertainment centre, there are still “a lot of questions” that need answering before a final decision.

Kevin Davis says it is “a big, big project” with lots of stages, including where to build it, who the development partners will be and who’s willing to take on sponsorships.

“There are a lot of questions that we need the answers to, (for) both ourselves at council and members of the community before we weigh in and make a final decision,” Davis said.

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“But we do know this, that we’ve got a 60-year-old arena that has a lot of issues … and at some point it’s going to have to be replaced.”

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If built, the facility likely would replace the aging Brantford Civic Centre, which currently acts as the temporary home of the CHL’s Brantford Bulldogs.

City staff estimate the cost of the complex, expected to be near Market Street South and Icomm Drive, could be between $110 and $140 million and produce an economic impact of $4.3 million annually.

Davis admits some public money will have to be part of the equation, along with corporate help, which means naming rights would be up for grabs.

Coun. Greg Martin says it would be a big boost for Branford’s morale, particularly after a public survey revealed 80 per cent of close to 600 respondents suggested it would be a positive drive for the local economy.

“It’ll help drive development in the lower downtown and the upper downtown as well,” Martin said.

“I see this as an increasing assessment that will help pay for whatever debenture amount that we end up borrowing to build this facility.”

Early in 2023, the city, Bulldogs and the OHL came to an agreement that relocated the team providing investments were made for upgrades.

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An estimated $7.5 million was earmarked for the civic centre prior to the 2023-24 season, with some of the spending coming from the Bulldogs ownership.

A clause in the agreement with the OHL team requires the city to seek a new arena build as it’s contingent on picking up an option to keep the team for three years.

Davis believes a new or further upgraded arena will be needed to keep the OHL’s Bulldogs in the city since it’s not big enough and has no corporate suites.

“Clearly if you’re going to make those kind of investments as a community, you want there to be a major tenant and the major tenant being an OHL team,” he said.

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