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Ex-Habs goalie Thibault to ink deal for Pincourt’s arena

  • Ex-Habs goalie Jocelyn Thibault was in Pincourt Thursday to announce his group had bought the abandoned arena.
    Ex-Habs goalie Jocelyn Thibault was in Pincourt Thursday to announce his group had bought the abandoned arena.
    Photo credit: Jason Magder/ The Gazette

With one arena under his belt already, ex-Habs goalie Jocelyn Thibault said he has the experience and know-how to bring life to Pincourt’s white elephant.

Thibault, a St-Michel native who played four seasons with the Canadiens, is president of Groupe Thibault Rhéaume et Associés, which two years ago built a $15-million arena in Sherbrooke, to be the main facility for Sports Études programs in the city.

Pincourt’s arena was abandoned in mid-construction in 2003, and after several legal battles, the town acquired the lot last year for $3.25 million.

At the town’s library Thursday afternoon, which is attached to Chêne Bleu High School, Pincourt announced a tentative deal to sell the lot to Thibault’s group. The group will lease the land for $1 per year for 99 years. The group will pay property tax worth about $85,000 per year.

Thibault said his group will invest $6.7 million, which includes purchasing the defunct building, though Pincourt will retain ownership of part of the land and sell it off for homes to be developed on the site. The town estimates it can get about $1.5 million for the 150,000 square feet it will sell.

With the sale of the land and the tax revenue from the arena and the homes, the town figures it will recoup its $3.25 million investment.

Thibault’s group announced an affiliation with Chêne Bleu High School across the street from the defunct arena.

Plans are for the sale to be finalized by September, and for the arena to be open by September 2014. The group will build one ice surface, and there are possibilities for another rink to be built in later phases.

The city will purchase about 1,500 hours of ice time at a cost of about $260 per hour, according to the deal signed between the two parties.

Thibault said he was pleasantly surprised by the state of the building, which has been languishing for 10 years.

“It’s a solid wood structure,” he said. “Obviously, there are elements that have to be demolished. But the structure is excellent.”

Thibault’s group is now one of two consortia led by NHL players promising to build an arena on Île Perrot. A group headed by Vancouver Canucks forward and Pincourt native Alexandre Burrows has said it will build an arena and soccerplex in neighbouring Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot.

N.D.I.P. Mayor Marie-Claude Nichols said she was disappointed to hear the news about the pending deal in Pincourt.

“We lost three years on this, and lots of people lost money,” she said. “Both projects are now probably at the same stage, and I sincerely don’t know if there is (enough demand) for both projects on the island.”

The Alexandre Burrows group says it is going to build an arena in neighbouring Notre-Dame-de-l’Île Perrot, no matter what happens in Pincourt.

The group, came to a tentative agreement with the town last January, and has been in the early planning stage since that time.

Paul Roy, who is a partner with Burrows, said the group will purchase land from the town in the next few weeks. He expects to break ground by the end of the year, and for people to be skating there by the beginning of the 2014 hockey season.

“In 21 or 30 days, we’ll hold a press conference to (formally) announce the project,” Roy said. “We’re just waiting for the city to choose which plot of land it’s going to sell to us.”

Last summer, the Burrows group reached a tentative agreement with Pincourt and proposed to complete the arena. But the two parties could not come to terms on the details of the project, and the deal fell through.

Roy said his group now has written commitments from several sports organizations that will use about 85 per cent of the ice time and indoor soccer time available. He said as far as he knows, Pincourt has not secured any such commitments.

“We have commitments,” he said. “Who is going to be skating in Pincourt’s arena?” He said he doesn’t believe there is enough demand for two arenas to be built on the island.

The Burrows project has also expanded in scope, and will now cost about $30 million to build. The group has solicited recreation groups and found there was a need for an indoor soccerplex in the area, nearly doubling the project’s price. The project will now contain two ice surfaces, a gym with weights and cardio equipment, four ball hockey courts – two of which will be indoors, a restaurant/bar and pro shop, both in the arena, and the soccerplex, which can also be used for indoor football.

“We want to create a dynamic to maximize the use of the complex 12 months out of the year,” said Maxime Poirier, the project’s builder.

Thibault said he’s not concerned about the Burrows project.

“Our deal makes us comfortable, but of course, there’s also a risk,” Thibault said. “If there’s another arena (built in N.D.I.P.), I have confidence our project can still be viable.”

jmagder@montrealgazette.com
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