Posted January 29, 2011
The majority of Councillors, with the assistance of the provincial government, and encouragement of the Tiger Cat organization, are about to make a decision on the location of a stadium that will impact every person in this City for the next 50 years.
It's a decision that will see over $150 million, an amount equivalent to 15% of the City's annual budget ($1.1 billion), spent to rebuild half a stadium.
We recommend that this investment not be made in the Ivor Wynne precinct.
The original intent of the stadium was to provide a legacy for amateur sport from the Pan Am games and, from a municipal perspective, was an opportunity to advance several local, regional, and provincial economic development and growth planning objectives all at once.
Hamilton has tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure investments and development plans linked to the West Harbour location - everything from parkland development to the east, to transit node development immediately adjacent to the proposed site, to the millions of dollars of downtown investment as part of the area known as the Urban Growth Centre for the region. All of these plans and investments are part of a greater strategy of revitalization and the Pan Am stadium was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tie these initiatives together and create critical mass for renewal.
Unfortunately, this focus has been lost through a remarkably difficult debate about stadium location. For many, the prime focus on the Pan Am Games and on the goals of the City of Hamilton became secondary to satisfying the constantly changing needs of the Tiger Cat organization, which ranged from a driveway-to-driveway experience, to naming rights, to parking, and more.
As a result, Hamilton lost the opportunity to play host to track and field, one of the Pan Am Games premier events, as it was not compatible with football according to the Tiger-Cat organization.
We are about to lose an existing, and very well used, 5,000 seat community stadium, Brian Timmis field, to provide parking for the Tiger Cats at the Ivor Wynne site.
We are about to spend all of our money on rebuilding half a stadium, with only enough money left to repair the north stands, already 40 years old.
With the latest proposal on the table to renovate Ivor Wynne stadium, the Ticats have dropped all their previous "roadblocks" to making this Pan Am opportunity what it was always meant to be for Hamilton. However, we don't have a comprehensive infrastructure and renewal plan for the city tied to the Ivor Wynne site. That opportunity still resides at the West Harbour. Hamilton does not have two urban growth centres identified by the province. We have one that is linked to the West Harbour. We don't have an unlimited Future Fund. We have one that will be virtually drained through this decision.
The Ivor Wynne proposal was offered up and accepted because it was cheaper, not because it was better. Now it's not even cheaper.
If we are going to empty our Future Fund to pay for this stadium, we should use it where it will do the most good. Further, the city is being asked to lock in their contribution to 44% of the stadium costs, even as these cost rise over the coming months and years. We could end up investing significantly more than our Future Fund, all to provide a renovated Ivor Wynne with limited spin-off potential. We could be left further in debt, still pondering what might have been if we had committed ourselves to realizing the West Harbour vision that thousands of Hamiltonians have voiced support for.We would be left standing in the position we find ourselves today: a city of unrealized potential. This doesn't have to be the case.
The province is being asked to provide more money to fill a funding gap for a full size stadium. Given the importance of this 50-year decision, we should focus on what will bring the most benefit to Hamilton. Simply put, for our massive Future Fund investment, a full stadium at the West Harbour is better than half a stadium at Ivor Wynne and any provincial money should go towards fulfilling that goal.
If this gap cannot be closed with provincial help, then we still have an approved alternative in the a smaller scalable stadium at the West Harbour that would still allow us to achieve community redevelopment goals within the funding envelope of our Future Fund.
Even at this late hour, it's still our choice to make. Many City Councillors do not think this is a good deal. They are right. Please tell your Councillor and MPP you support a wiser, more informed, and lasting decision.
City Council votes on Monday. Your voice is needed now.
If you have a problem with that link, or you want to email the mayor or councillors individually, click here for their email addresses.
Because the Ivor Wynne plan depends on additional financing from the provincial level, you may want to email Ted McMeekin and Sophia Aggelonitis from the governing Liberal Party of Ontario, as well as Andrea Horwath and Paul Miller. If that link doesn't work for you, here are their email addresses: email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org