If Hamilton can't make the correct decisions for its long term revitalization plans, will the Province step up and make those decisions for us?
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 23, 2010
Sooner or later, the Provincial government is going to have to take a position on Hamilton's Pan Am stadium dispute. So far, the Province has been careful not to get involved, arguing that they don't wish to intervene in a local matter, but given the trajectory of negotiations, it's unlikely that the city can resolve the issue in-house.
The current state of affairs finds the Hamilton Tiger-Cats committed to an East Mountain location where the Lincoln Alexander Parkway meets the Red Hill Valley Parkway, and a broad cross-section of individuals and groups across Hamilton committed to the city's preferred West Harbour location on an industrial brownfield near Bay and Barton Streets.
David Adames, head of Tourism Hamilton and the City's principal representative in the mediation talks, notes that the East Mountain site was mentioned previously as a possible stadium location during both the Pan Am games bid and the preceding Commonwealth Games bid.
However, it was Michael Fenn, the facilitator brought in by the City and the Ticats to find a compromise that satisfied both parties, who put the location forward this time and arranged for officials from Metrolinx and the ORC to make a presentation to the mediation committee.
The property is currently owned by the Ontario Realty Corp and Fenn was familiar with it having served for some time as the ORC chair.
Fenn declined to be interviewed by RTH, explaining that he believes "it would be more appropriate if the discussions on your site and elsewhere continued to focus on the views of the parties and the views of our community, rather than on my role or any personal opinions I might have."
The Province of Ontario has been careful not to get involved publicly in Hamilton's public conflict over a Pan Am Games stadium location. Provincial spokespeople have been careful to tiptoe around the question of what will happen if the City picks a location and the Ticats refuse to play there.
Ian Troop, the head of the Pan Am Host Corporation overseeing the Games, maintains, "The City is in control of its destiny."
Likewise, Sophia Aggelonitis, Liberal MPP for Hamilton Mountain, affirms that the Province simply "wants Hamilton to have a Stadium. Where it goes is up to the city."
Asked whether the Province would still fund a stadium if the Ticats refuse to play there, Aggelonitis responded, "The Province is committed to funding a Pan Am stadium. Naturally, a stadium that can meet both Pan Am needs and the ongoing needs of Hamilton, including the Ti-Cats and others, would be preferable."
Similarly Ted McMeekin, Liberal MPP for Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Waterdown, notes, "The province has taken no position on the location of the Pan Am stadium other than to support the Hamilton proposal for the West Harbour site."
The Ticats have argued that the Provincial funding commitment for the Pan Am stadium depends on the City securing a legacy tenant, specifically the Ticats. If the City does not agree to a stadium location the Ticats find acceptable, the team argues, they will refuse to commit and the city will lose the Stadium.
Adames confirmed, "the Pan Am Host Corporation has asked the City to develop a business plan with a legacy tenant as part of that plan for a stadium."
Troop carefully stated, "If there is any risk to the delivery of the Games and the Games legacy, then Toronto 2015 and its funding partners - the federal government and the province of Ontario - will have to assess the situation."
According to McMeekin, "I have heard that other municipalities are prepared to facilitate the location of a Pan Am stadium should Hamilton be unable to resolve and settle on a final site location."
Troop confirmed that either location would be acceptable to Hostco. "[W]e know transportation and transit planning will be an important consideration for us. Equally important is a viable business plan and sport and community legacy."
McMeekin concurred. "Other than the necessary due diligence related to planning requirements ... and other processes (eg. a potential OMB appeal) there is nothing I am specifically aware of that would preclude either a West Harbour or East Mountain site for a Hamilton stadium."
Asked about whether the East Mountain is consistent with the Provincial Places to Grow framework, Aggelonitis responded, "It's up to the City to determine the best way to achieve these goals for Hamilton. I will support the City in exercising its responsibility."
Adames notes that the City has contracted McCormaack Rankin consulting "to complete a high level transport analysis of the East Mountain site that will form part of the August 10 report to Committee of the Whole."
The city's analysis will also consider the cost of building a new highway interchange to access the East Mountain site, plus other necessary road widening and civic infrastructure. A hydro line will have to be moved, and the city will have to do something to offset the added pressure on the Red Hill Valley storm water management once all that land is paved over for parking.
The indications coming from the city are that the cost is going to be high - potentially in the tens of millions of dollars. It's an open question who will be expected to pay for this. The City? The Ticats? The Province?
What happens if Council decides that the City can't afford the additional cost for the East Mountain? Will the Province then step in to cover the balance and avoid an embarrassing retrenchment to find a new location?
For the sake of $30 or $40 million, will the Province instead offer some kind of deal-sweetener to the Ticats to accept the West Harbour (along the lines of the Provincial commitment to rehabilitate the Lister Block)? McMeekin, Aggelonitis and Troop all maintain that the Province doesn't have a preferred location, but the West Harbour is unquestionably more in keeping with the Provincial focus on intensification and urban revitalization.
As Storm Cunningham, the keynote speaker at this year's Hamilton Economic Summit, concluded in his recent op-ed on the Stadium fiasco:
Premier Dalton McGuinty and senior cabinet ministers have said on numerous occasions "the next 10 years belong to Hamilton." The premier is right, but only if the correct decisions are made today.
If Hamilton can't make the correct decisions today, will the Province step up and make those decisions for us?
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