Brantford Sports and Entertainment Centre

At a Special Council Meeting held earlier this year, Brantford City Council unanimously endorsed the development of a new Sports and Entertainment Centre (SEC) as a priority project for the City. Paving the way for Phase Three in the advancement of this important civic project, Council directed City staff to begin completion of preparatory site due diligence to understand and document potential issues associated with developing the facility on the Civic Centre site (79 Market St S), as well as initiating a request for Business Partnerships process to solicit private sector interest in the development. A decision regarding whether or not to formally proceed with the project is expected later this year, and if approved, the new facility could break ground as early as 2025 and open in 2027.

SEC Frequently Asked Questions

The following Frequently Asked Questions summary outlines the current phase of the Brantford Sports Entertainment Centre initiative, its progress, and the next steps planned towards establishing the Sports and Entertainment Centre in Brantford.

What is the purpose of the Brantford Sports and Entertainment Centre (SEC)?
The SEC initiative is being explored with the purpose of elevating Brantford as a sports and entertainment hub, fostering economic growth, further revitalizing the city centre, and attracting world-class entertainment and sports events for Brantford residents and visitors. Furthermore, the City conservatively estimates direct spending impacts of over $11 million annually - $6.6 million from events held at the SEC and an additional $4.8 million from Bulldogs out-of-town visitors attending games. 
How was 79 Market St. selected as the recommended SEC site location?
The process involved a meticulous assessment led by Sports Advisory Consultant, KKR Advisors Ltd. and City Council. Initially, ten potential sites were evaluated, leading to a shortlist of three. Based on rankings of sites measured against detailed criteria including potential economic impact and overall feasibility, ultimately, the site at 79 Market Street, adjacent to the existing Civic Centre, emerged as the recommended location. Following a thorough evaluation process and input from various stakeholders, the Civic Centre site at 79 Market Street is strongly recommended as the optimal location for the SEC.
What were the key criteria for selecting the site adjacent to the Civic Centre?
The site was selected based on ranking first in several assessment categories, including its alignment with Council priorities, potential economic impact, city building potential, and overall feasibility. The site adjacent to the Civic Centre Site ranked highest in all categories except parking (where it ranked second) and ease of development (where it ranked third).
What will the SEC cost to build and what is the annual impact to taxpayers to operate the facility?

Based on cost projections of other recently built facilities, the cost of the SEC is estimated, in 2026, to cost in the range of $115 million to $140 million ($25,000 to $27,500 per seat). While the two most recently completed projects (in Gatineau, QC, which opened in 2021 and cost $102 million / $25,500 per seat, for a facility that included a 4,000-seat spectator arena and three adjoining community ice pads, and in Trois Rivieres, QC, which opened in 2020 and cost $60.6 million / $13,500 per seat for a 4,500-seat spectator arena and adjoining community ice pad), are at or are well below this cost range, the identified cost estimate is considered reasonable.

Once opened, the SEC is initially projected to require approximately $670,000 in annual operating support. This estimate is in line with the operational support needed by similar SECs in Guelph, St. Catharines and Oshawa, as well as current costs to operate Brantford assets including the Civic Centre at approximately $600,000 and Lions Park at $497,000. Given it houses 4 arenas, costs to operate the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre are $2.2 million.

Additionally, a new Centre would help address the high demand for ice time in our community, providing essential space for various activities and organizations such as minor hockey, adult recreational hockey, and the Brant Figure Skating Club.

How will the City pay for the build of a new Sports and Entertainment Centre? 

To pay for the SEC, the City has embarked on a Request for Business Partnerships process to seek out companies interested in partnering with the City in the development, financing, operation and / or programming / management of the SEC. As part of this process, the City is also seeking to sell the SEC’s naming rights, and potentially sell underutilized properties in the downtown.

Through this process, the City intends to minimize the net financial impact to Brantford residents by leveraging City assets that are currently not realizing their full potential and increasing their value so that in effect, the City can generate additional tax revenues to help fund ongoing priorities such as affordable housing and investing in City infrastructure. Through the implementation of a land value capture approach, the City stands to benefit financially from tax revenues generated by the development of surrounding properties. By leveraging the increased land values resulting from the SEC project, pre-selling naming rights and partnering with the private sector, the City can not only enhance its tax revenue streams but also ensure sustainable funding to help offset costs to build and operate the new SEC and thereby minimize the tax impact on Brantford residents.

Will this approach result in losing the Farmer’s Market and other City assets?

While the City's approach to reaching out to the private sector for proposals is intended to leverage underutilized assets and increase their value for the benefit of the community, it will nonetheless be essential to ensure that any proposed development aligns with the City's and the community's best interests. This includes preserving valuable community assets like the Farmer's Market.

The City welcomes proposals that not only maximize the economic potential of the properties but also prioritize the well-being and needs of our residents. It is the City’s expectation that proposals will demonstrate a commitment to preserving community assets such as the Farmer's Market and enhancing them to realize their full potential. In reviewing offers, the City will only consider proposals which result in a mutually beneficial arrangement for the City.

What are the anticipated social and economic benefits of the proposed SEC in Brantford?

It's important to consider the potential benefits that a well-planned Sports and Entertainment Centre could bring to the downtown area and how it can serve as a catalyst for economic growth and community revitalization. Firstly, a new centre could attract visitors from near and far, generating foot traffic and business for surrounding retail and restaurants. This increased activity could breathe new life into the downtown area, creating job opportunities, stimulating local businesses, and generating new development interest much like has been done in other cities like London, Guelph, St. Catharines, Oshawa and Kingston.

The ongoing partnership with the Brantford Bulldogs along with other sports and entertainment events at the potential new venue is modestly projected to generate an annual economic impact from spending in excess of $12 million annually 6M, including spending by the SEC itself, spending by the Bulldogs, spending by visiting teams and fan, and spending by event attendees at local businesses. Additionally, an ongoing partnership with the Bulldogs is expected to significantly enhance the city's reputation as a sports-friendly destination, fostering increased activity and vibrancy, particularly in the downtown area. This boost in reputation is anticipated to attract future investments, further contributing to the city's economic growth. Moreover, the establishment of the SEC is envisioned to instill civic pride and confidence within the community, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement.

The community will also benefit significantly from the great work of the Bulldogs Foundation whose mandate is to raise funds to support youth in the community. This year alone, the Foundation has raised more than $145,000 for the Brantford Bisons through its partnership with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and has donated $45,000 to Brant Food for Thought, $10,000 to Brant Community Healthcare System pediatrics and $35,000 to the Brantford Community Hockey League’s Take A Shot Program.

Why is the City considering this build when building affordable housing and a new hospital are such key priorities in our community? 

As part of a series of comprehensive community development plans, the City remains firmly committed to improving housing and healthcare in our community. The City is meeting the targets set out in the Brantford/Brant Affordable Housing plan to construct 506 social housing units over ten years. Four years into that plan 43% or 220 units have been or are under construction. At the same time the City is actively supporting the Province and Brant Community Health Services’ (BCHS) plan for the construction of a new hospital, a recognition of the critical need for advanced healthcare facilities in our community.

Building a new hospital is a massive undertaking that requires advocacy and raising the capital required from a variety of sources. The City is one of many players involved in contributing to this project and is dedicated to ensuring any dollars saved through year end surplus, additional dividends and operational efficiencies are contributed to this important community project.

While funding the new hospital build is provincially governed, the City will honour its obligations to the contribute to this important community project. Last year, the City proactively established a Hospital Redevelopment Reserve Fund with $8.5 million contributed to date, part of a dedicated effort by the City to put in place the municipal funding required for the successful completion of this vital healthcare project. The City will be allocating additional monies to the reserve in June, 2024.

It is important to note that proceeding with an SEC build does not circumvent any efforts to improve housing and healthcare. The City’s commitment to these initiatives will continue regardless of what is decided regarding a new Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Ultimately, the City's simultaneous focus on recreation, economic development, housing and healthcare underscores our commitment to fostering a thriving community, and doing so by addressing in a comprehensive manner the many different and diverse needs required to make Brantford a successful and livable city.

What stages has the SEC development process reached?
The development process for the SEC in Brantford is in Phase 2 of a 3-phase process. Prompted by the sale of 2,400 Brantford Bulldogs season memberships, City Council directed staff to undertake a comprehensive plan, including a recommended location, cost estimates encompassing both capital and operating expenses, a financing plan, and delivery timelines. This initiative was conducted in collaboration with the Sports Advisory Consultant, KKR Advisors Ltd., revealing a rare opportunity for Brantford to elevate its national sports status, revitalize the city’s core, attract tourism and world-class entertainment, and stimulate new business in the downtown area. 
What are the next steps and timing of the SEC project?

Responses to the City’s solicitation of business partnerships are expected in May. Following a detailed review of the responses received, City staff will seek direction from City Council on next steps, which may include entering into direct negotiations to secure a beneficial business partnership to move this important initiative forward. A decision regarding whether or not to formally proceed with the project is expected in late 2024, and if approved, the new facility could break ground as early as 2025 and open in 2027.

This process has been designed to incorporate a number of critical “go / no go” decision points, allowing Council multiple opportunities to evaluate and debate this project before formally deciding on committing to build this facility.

Why doesn’t the City just add to the Civic Centre renovation?

While having served the needs of the community well for the past 55 years, the Civic Centre is deficient in a number of key attributes that would allow it to be a viable long-term venue for an Ontario Hockey League franchise. With 2,954 fixed seats, the Civic Centre is currently the smallest venue in the entire OHL and would be the seventh smallest of the 60 venues that house Canadian Hockey League teams (including the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League). It also lacks a number of amenities and features that allow a venue to maximize revenues and attract a wider range of events. Furthermore, the Civic Centre is deficient in a number of key spectator amenities including accessibility, seating size, row width and accessible washrooms.

While some of these deficiencies could be addressed through a renovation, altering the capacity of the Civic Centre would require more substantial renovations forcing closure of the Civic Centre for a considerable period of time, likely requiring the Bulldogs to again seek a new home while the Centre is being renovated, with no guarantee that the Bulldogs would return. Such renovations could also not begin until after the Bulldogs current lease expires in 2026 (assuming the team does not exercise its right to extend the lease by an additional one to three years).