May 29, 2009

Jim Balsillie has unveiled his vision for a revamped Copps Coliseum, the arena he hopes will become the new home of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes.

Balsillie's plan for the 24-year-old Hamilton arena, which would seat up to 18,000, includes an atrium-style entrance lobby, luxury boxes, lounges and restaurants, new seats and a state-of-the art video scoreboard.

It's unclear who will pay for the $150 million renovation to the aging facility.

The co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has made a $212.5 million bid for the financially ailing Coyotes on the condition he can move the club to Hamilton. The NHL is against the move and wants to find a buyer who will keep the team in Glendale, Ariz.

A spokesman for Balsillie said Friday that the BlackBerry boss would cover the cost of "short-term" renovations to the arena but noted the rink is owned by the city of Hamilton, which could request infrastructure funds from the federal and provincial governments.

"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 a release. "This facility will deliver unparalleled excitement and bring fans closer than ever to the action."

Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty left the door open to using public funds for the project but said he would have to wait and see if "we get a sensible proposal."

The province already plans to help Hamilton support Ontario's bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games -- funds McGuinty has suggested could be used to fix up Copps Coliseum.

The arena currently seats 19,000, depending on the configuration, but is lacking many amenities like suites found in modern NHL arenas.

Balsillie's plan, by architectural firms BBB Architects and its subsidiary, Stadium Consultants International, also calls for new locker-rooms, rink surface, ice plant and climate control systems.

The Coyotes currently play at the Arena, which opened in 2003.

A hearing to determine whether the team can be relocated is set for June 9 in Phoenix. The hearing had been scheduled for June 22, but Balsillie has said he will withdraw his offer if the sale is not completed by the end of June, so judge Redfield Baum moved up the date.

The judge has set two tentative deadlines for the auction of the team, depending on how he rules on relocation -- June 22 if Balsillie gets his way and Sept. 10 if the NHL prevails.

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