Friday, May 29, 2009

Jim Balsillie unveils Copps Coliseum renovation plan

Given the very public campaign by BlackBerry founder Jim Balsillie has put together to bring a seventh National Hockey League team north of the border to Canada, now he has done more to woo public support to get behind his cause.

With his $212.5 million bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, his dream has only sparked heated debate and discussion from both sides of the issue of whether the hockey team can flourish in the Arizona capital city or be relocated to Hamilton, Ontario. Since outgoing owner Jerry Moyes made an agreement with Balsillie before ending up in a court battle with the league for authoritive control of the Coyotes, this arena plan is of real consideration should an NHL team be placed there.

Balsillie unveiled this morning on his Make It Seven campaign site a massive renovation plan for Copps Coliseum in order to bring it up to today's standards for NHL arenas. The estimated cost of this revitalization project is expected to be roughly $150 million based on 2007 construction estimates.

"A new team for the best new hockey market deserves spectacular new home ice, and that's exactly what the upgraded Copps Coliseum would offer," Balsillie said in his press release. "This facility will deliver unparalleled excitement and bring fans closer than ever to the action."

Not only will this be a way for Hamilton to host an NHL team in a state-of-the-art venue, it'll help bring more top concerts and shows as well as conventions to the city. However, there is no guarantee for the public financial support.

"It'd be premature at this point to talk about funding for Copps Coliseum," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's spokesperson Karman Wong said today. "However, the premier continues to be supportive of bringing a hockey team to southern Ontario."

However, the Canadian province of Ontario already plans to spend infrastructure money in Hamilton to help support their bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games, that being money which McGuinty has suggested could be used to fix up the arena.

Balsillie chose the design fire BBB Architects, the same firm that is working with Cablevision in their massive renovation plans for Madison Square Garden in New York City as well as New York Islanders owner Charles Wang for the proposed The Lighthouse at Long Island project which includes Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

As presented in the unveiling, this is what Copps Coliseum's exterior would look like under a proposed renovation plan. (image courtesy of Veritas Communications)

"When completed, the BBB Renovation Plan will transform Copps Coliseum into a first class professional sports and entertainment facility, which will in turn promote a first class experience for visitors through the redesign and transformation of the building," said Chris O'Reilly, Principal with BBB Architects as stated in a Veritas Communications press release.

Under the proposed renovation plan, this is Copps Coliseum with an interior facelift. (image courtesy of Veritas Communications)

Within just two hours after Balsille unveiling of this renovation plan in which his financial backing hinges on owning an NHL team and placing it there, Ken Peters of the Hamilton Spectator boasted what this means to this city smack in between Buffalo and Toronto in an interview with CBC News: Today host Nancy Wilson.

"This is a huge deal. Mayor Fred Eisenberger said in a press release on it that it's a jawdropper and it absolutely is," Peters explained with his published article. "The plans are absolutely stunning. It's almost like building a brand-new facility. And already Hamilton is worked up over this plan for relocating the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. When they hear details of the arena, it's just going to go over the top."

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