Oak View Group Enters Canadian Market With Ontario Arena Project

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Oak View Group is entering the Canadian market with a renovated arena in Hamilton, Ontario. The venue development company will team up with Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) — a private consortium led by Carmen’s Group and the Mercanti Family & Associates — on the redevelopment of downtown Hamilton’s arts and entertainment district.

In a 49-year agreement with the city, the partnership will take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre, the FirstOntario Concert Hall and of the Hamilton Convention Centre. Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group has proposed a minimum $50 million renovation of the FirstOntario Centre, including a new exterior façade and video board, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony.

The renovation also proposes year-round access to street-level activations on York Boulevard, which will include a sports lounge, an e-gaming zone, and additional food and beverage offerings in collaboration with local hospitality partners.

“I have been very fortunate in my career to be part of the Toronto community and call Canada home. I saw first-hand the continued growth in the Toronto Metro area, and we believe Hamilton in particular, needs a venue that reflects the growth, great fans, and community thus requiring that new facilities are developed and new opportunities are created,” said CEO of OVG, and former past president of Canada’s Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Tim Leiweke said in a release. “We believe Hamilton is the perfect market to plant our first OVG Canada flag and will be a venue that compliments Toronto and the Scotia Bank Arena. We think there is a need, an opportunity to transform the current arena and we are extremely excited to be partners with the City of Hamilton and HUPEG on their vision.”

The OVG-HUPEG partnership will bring in additional funding, with construction at the arena venue anticipated to take place over two years and be completed in two phases. Work is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2022, with the OVG-HUPEG alliance coordinating with current tenants and operators to minimize any operational impacts of the renovations.

“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with OVG, a forward-thinking pioneer in the world of sports and live entertainment,” said HUPEG president PJ Mercanti in a release. “By joining forces with their impressive team of industry champions, we are one step closer to achieving our vision of transforming Hamilton’s beloved arena into a destination for sports fans, music lovers, and families.”

In addition to the comprehensive arena transformation, the Precinct Group’s plan includes over $12.5 million in capital upgrades, expansion and aesthetic enhancements to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre and Concert Hall, as well as a one-time $2 million contribution to the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The Precinct Group’s plan also includes over $500 million in auxiliary mixed-use development, including 5% affordable housing in one of the residential developments. The Precinct Group is to take over the operations and maintenance of all three entertainment venues on April 1, 2022 with the city retaining ownership of the lands and facilities.

The deal marks Oak View Group’s first development property in Canada and will also serve as the launching point for OVG’s Canadian office. OVG’s experience in redeveloping arena includes the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and UBS arena in Belmont, New York.

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