Special Report: Pan Am

Sooner or Later, Province Must Get Involved in Stadium Dispute

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."

Location 'Up to the City'

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."

A Legacy Tenant

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."

Preferred 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."

Additional East Mountain Costs

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?

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

21 Comments

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 13:38:14

Because the province would never do anything iffy or underhanded, right?

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By Jason (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 14:51:40

They're already involved. How do you think we got into this mess. They said they wanted a made in Hamilton solution, so Hamilton opted for urban revitalization and the west harbour.
The province should be outraged at any city willing to spend millions if their dollars on disconnected sprawl when they've already told the world that our PanAm games would be transit focused. Throw in some toxic dump sites ready to be reborn as a legacy of vibrant high density neighbourhoods.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2010 at 14:59:24

Wow, that's an awful lot of buck-passing from our MPP's.

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 15:20:00

I'm afraid they may be our last resort, and it's disconcerting to see their indifference. Judging by the comments of councillor so far, the east mountain should pass without a hitch. I don't hear any fuss over the costs of servicing the site - a bigger deal was made over the potential remediation costs of the West Harbour, although even the high estimates for remediation were less than the initial estimates for roadwork to service the east mountain. Council seems to view expensive automobile infrastructure to open up new development lands as a necessary investment, but reclamation of existing serviced land as an unacceptable cost. This is insane.

Despite the overwhelming support for the West Harbour both grassroots and offical, we seem to have zero consistent support on council.

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By Tartan Tritton (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 15:22:53

If the city can't afford the EM location, I expect that council will hike taxes. Just as they would if there were unforeseen cost overruns for an expanded West Harbour stadium. (Won't become an issue until after the election, so they won't be shy.)

Getting the province involved may not change that dynamic. If we ask them to wipe our asses, don't be surprised if they use our wallets to do so.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 15:25:52

And yes, jonathan dalton, it is insane. And sadly symptomatic of local politics/development. Perhaps newcomers are starting to see where lifers' downtrodden cynicism comes from.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 15:49:25

Does an East Mountain stadium still need to pass an OMB application?

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 17:12:16

I wonder if a citizen group could start an OMB case against the east mountain like HPD did with Aerotropolis. Anything to cast doubt, complicate or delay the process would be beneficial. It could prompt the Host Committee to locate the stadium elsewhere, which in my mind is as much of a win as the west harbour going forward. Priority #1 is where the future fund is spent - remediating/revitalizing vs. sprawling/destroying. Priority #2 is whether or not there's a stadium.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 19:28:49

While I agree with what you have to say Ryan, it might not have to be a matter of the province getting involved. I think it might be more along the lines of a clarification of their position with regard to the funding.

If funding is tied to whether or not the Ticats sign on to a deal, then the province should make that clear and if not they should do the same. I think some of the politicians in this city are under the impression that without a deal with the Ticats funding will be pulled. If that is the case then there is no chance for the West Harbour. The only way the West Harbour has a chance is if the province comes out and says they will provide funding and it doesn't matter whether or not the Ticats are onboard.

I can't understand why the Mayor hasn't gone to the Premier and asked that he make it very clear publicly, whether or not a deal is needed with the Ticats before funding is forthcoming. It would make the decision making process much easier for those councillors sitting on the fence right now.

Comment edited by bigguy1231 on 2010-07-23 18:54:39

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By red24 (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 21:34:09

"I can't understand why the Mayor hasn't gone to the Premier and asked that he make it very clear publicly, whether or not a deal is needed with the Ticats before funding is forthcoming. It would make the decision making process much easier for those councillors sitting on the fence right now."

There's a very good reason for the province's reticence to make a clear statement on this: they want the two sides to come to an agreement on their own. I actually think that prior to the Economic Summit back in the Spring, when Ian Troop of HOSTCO made a thinly-veiled threat that no deal with the Ticats might jeopardize the stadium, the City was prepared to go with a legacy that didn't include the Ticats. Maybe they still can.

I actually find these quotes from provincial officials reassuring. The way Bob Young tells the story, the Province has declared the Ticats the stadium legacy and no deal with the Ticats necessarily means no stadium. I hope they haven't told him that privately and told the rest of us it's up to the parties involved.

red24

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By goin'downtown (registered) | Posted July 23, 2010 at 23:15:31

To me, the Province offering money for a project build, and then out-of-the-blue lining up investors and political bureaucrats to encourage/force the City to buy the Province's land for said project is pretty dicey. So if Tony Valeri or Angelo Paletta told the City that he's going to donate $5,000,000 towards the building of a medium-sized, much-needed music venue - but the City has to build it on land that they buy from Valeri/Paletta - how is that any different from what the Province is doing? Same players; they just don't dress as well :).

Of course Young's only interest is the incredible (short-term) spike in revenues. Why would it be anything else? I'm sure he's fed up with phootball philanthropy. (Although - there must be some reason he keeps coming back for more...only his hairdresser - no, accountant - really knows). He'll recoup some (or all) of his losses, then sell. And then we're back at Dan Jelly's scenario, which sounds hauntingly and psychically accurate.

Storm Cunningham's article was the most objective and astute that I've seen, but with recent big box developments, the RHV debacle and aerotropolis looming - I'm not confident that his common sense objectivity can make any changes at this point.

So, after weeks of digesting some brilliant opinions and research and articles on RTH, The Hamiltonian, The Spec, Hall Marks, etc. - where vested interests (whether they be personal financial gain or personal idealism) seem to get everyone all heated up - and where I haven't even seen a trace of a financial forecast for either location (what goes on when Ticats aren't playing? Where are the specific infrastructure costs?) - and despite being a staunch believer in the WH location - I'm joining McCarthy. I'd rather save the tax payers' dollars than waste it on an ill-conceived, inappropriate investment. Let the Ticats stay where they are (no one was threatening to leave before all this hullaballoo). And I am a Ticat fan; I love that they are a part of our identity. I wonder what happens to Ivor Wynne if a new stadium gets built? Does it just get leveled?

As for McCormick-Rankin’s contribution via more tax payers’ dollars, undoubtedly they are linked financially - although the links would be buried beneath layers of numbered companies and the like - to the ORC, developers, contractors, et al. Don't need a magic 8-ball to figure out what their conclusions are going to be - infrastructure costs will appear attractively low to what they actually will be, and potential traffic and attendees will be inflated. Wonder if that initial analysis will ever be looked at again, if the EM location is a go-ahead.

Let's save the money for a different downtown catalyst - like mixing a small Harbourfront stadium with a creative arts-ish venture (since it doesn't look like the Creative Catalyst is going to save the Connaught, anyway) - and have a beautiful, beneficial, community Arts & Entertainment Stadium/Complex at the West Harbourfront. And do some way over-due improvements on Ivor Wynne. Where will the money for those projects come from? From the money saved in not spending $30-50 million on infrastructure for the EM location.

Hopefully somewhere along the way the general public, including business people, will learn a few things about the role a vibrant downtown plays, and we won’t have so much “us against them”-ism.

Like Councillor McHattie said of an earlier misguided development ""Hamilton has a history of taking what we can get instead of following what good planning says we need."

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 03:17:56

I've always been troubled by the idea that the funding for this stadium is contingent on the need for a 'Legacy Tenant.' Hamilton made a commitment to build a Track and Field Stadium, Pool and Velodrome for the 2015 PanAm games. The PanAm bid was awarded in part because of proposed 15,000 seat stadium at the west harbourfront with direct access by GO train from TO's athletes village. $160 million has been promised by three levels of Gov't to fund these facilities, to date $8 million has been spent to acquire the necessary lands. Next step is to confirm the original west harbour site...the 'Legacy' will be a competition ready pool at Mac, a world class competition ready velodrome and a world class competition ready track and field stadium designed to be expandable and versatile to accommodate Professional Soccer and Football, outdoor concerts, CIS Championship ball games, Trade Shows, public gatherings, large meetings and amateur and professional track and field....At that point Mr. Troop should confirm the site because it has been pre-approved, if he denies approval then the Premier would be expected to either intervene or explain the decision. (Note: I'am a lifelong Ti-Cat fan but this is about what's best for the 500,000 citizens of Greater Hamilton).

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 08:44:21

Isnt the Ontario Realty Corp being investigated by the OPP.

This whole thing is turning out to be a mess. Too many money men got their hands out for dollars, meanwhile so many in our community do without, especially down in the city.

It is no longer what is best for the public good, only what ges into the hands and fingers of the billionaires.

I am sick to my stomach by this.

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By Jorge (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 12:07:15

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 13:06:40

Jorge shouldn't that read 'Pay up Ti-Cats'.....

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 13:32:02

Mountain is needed for parking and access period . The Ticats need the parking . If the Ticats are willing to pay up and build the parking lot , interchange and get the stadium an extra 15,000 seats then the east mountain would be accepted . Pay up Ticats or shut up .

Fixed.

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By goin'downtown (registered) | Posted July 24, 2010 at 14:04:49

Grassroots, not only is the ORC being investigated by the OPP, it's not the first time. And our mediator on this issue is a past employee of the ORC. Yikes. Jonathan, I'm not positive, but I think any citizen group aiming for OMB disputes needs a pro bono lawyer in the very least, otherwise - well, you can see from the front page of today's Spec what kinds of things money is needed for.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted July 25, 2010 at 10:09:30

Goin downtown: Yes I saw that Mr Fenn was a past employee of the Ontario Realty Corp. Something up with all that if you ask me, but then what do I know, right.

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By OMG (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2010 at 13:19:35

Grassroots you are disgusting. Now you question the integrity of a man who has been praised for his public service over many decades. Wash your mouth out with soap you idiot.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted July 25, 2010 at 13:23:08

The tiger tail is wagging the dog.
(since 'Burbys are the least likely to come out to Cats games now, are they hoping that this will change if they get a 'cornfield' development? They had better hope for dry Fall weather, or their fan base may be swept away, & not with excitement.)

Yes, ORC is being investigated. It could change the outcome.

What about the Liberal commitment to The Green Belt? (lols!) :{ Grrrrrrrr....

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted July 25, 2010 at 14:12:03

OMG: Did I touch a nerve or something.

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