Even Councillors seem unsure just exactly what they agreed to at today's committee meeting, when they approved a proposal to make an Ivor Wynne renovation Hamilton's bid for a Pan Am stadium.
By Ryan McGreal
Published January 24, 2011
At a contentious General Issues Committee (formerly Committee of the Whole) meeting today, City Councillors voted to receive a staff financial report on the proposed Ivor Wynne renovation and to make this proposal its preferred option to present to Toronto 2015 as the site of a Pan Am Games stadium, even though the plan is underfunded by between $36.5 million and $54.5 million.
The City would specify to Toronto 2015, the Pan Am Games host corporation, that Hamilton's financial commitment to the stadium is capped at $45 million - money that would come from the Future Fund. Another $70 million would come from the Federal and Provincial governments via Infrastructure Ontario.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the intended primary tenant of the 25,000 seat stadium, have offered $600,000 a year toward the stadium's operating costs, to be funded out of a $3 ticket surcharge. Neither the Ticats nor any corporate partners or sponsors have committed any capital costs toward the stadium construction.
Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop recently confirmed that the host corporation has no extra Games money to spare, though the Provincial Government has indicated in the past that it might be willing to contribute more money toward the stadium.
The Committee also voted to abandon Council's earlier preferred option to build a 15,000 seat stadium at the West Harbour - though at least some councillors believe a bid that was submitted by the City on January 20 for a scalable 5,000 seat stadium at the West Harbour is still in effect.
Troop has repeatedly stated that a 5-6000 seat community stadium is consistent with the Pan Am Games commitment to create legacy facilities for high performance amateur sport, and that a community sized stadium would not require a professional legacy tenant to be economically viable.
On January 7, Troop told RTH that the Games are "not about providing a stadium for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. If that's part of a solution, terrific, but that's not our mandate."
However, recent media reports have suggested that Queen's Park has an interest in a stadium solution that includes a new home for Hamilton's CFL team. As the Spectator reported:
It was a call from a McGuinty government representative to Mayor Bob Bratina's office early this week that set the stadium compromise proposal in motion.
Bratina then called Hamilton Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell, who raised the Ivor Wynne solution.
Toronto 2015 has also clearly stated, both publicly and in correspondence with the City, that Hamilton's stadium proposal must include assurances that the cost is fully funded and committed.
That means Council and Staff have only a few days to whittle a $36.5-$54.5 million shortfall down to zero, or else the plan will fail Toronto 2015's approval criteria.
Even now, there are more questions than answers in this never-ending stadium fiasco.
Though Councillors voted to eliminate the 15,000 seat West Harbour stadium option as Plan B, it is unclear whether a proposal for a 6,000 seat scalable stadium is still in effect. At least some Councillors seem to think it is.
Ticat owner Bob Young has promised two Grey Cup games in Hamilton in the next decade. However, Ivor Wynne Stadium would only have 25,000 seats, with the ability to expand to 35,000 using temporary seating. CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon wrote a threatening letter to Hamilton last summer stating that the CFL requires 45,000 seats to host a Grey Cup.
Mayor Bratina and Councillor Ferguson suggested that the renovation cost may be overstated, because Infrastructure Ontario tends to build a 20% padding into its pricing estimates to account for cost overruns. Is it prudent to assume that the IWS renovation won't be plagued by such cost overruns?
What happened to the corporate sponsors Bob Young proudly trumpeted last week when he and Mayor Bratina announced the IWS plan?
Why does Mayor Bratina believe the City's two main objectives in planning a Pan Am stadium are to retain the Ticats and to avoid tax increases? Whatever happened to city building and economic development - the mandate of the Future Fund being used for the City contribution?
How can the funding plan be partially dependent on a pro soccer team if Bob Young cannot guarantee that he will be able to launch a NASL team?
What does the Future Fund Board of Governors think about spending $45 million to renovate Ivor Wynne Stadium?
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