Revitalization

Florida: Downtown Stadium, Regional Transit

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 19, 2009

In an interview published today in the Spectator, Professor Richard Florida (of Creative Class fame) makes some arguments very similar to what we've been saying in RTH.

On the Pan Am stadium:

You have to build it in the densest area you can. The stadium should be less car-oriented and be able to be used for a variety of uses and events.

The closer to the core, the better. That's where the greatest impact will be but the real challenge is to make it part of the neighbourhood.

On regional transit:

This region is not as big as the big metros of the world. That means we have to get stronger rail links and faster commutes. We have to knit ourselves closer together and transit is the key.

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.

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By sselway (registered) | Posted November 19, 2009 at 12:22:41

"Closest to the core" means downtown, not in a residential neighbourhood!

Urban neighbourhoods need support and protection. Constant, regular improvements to existing neighbourhoods, will bring people - singles, families, retired - all kinds of people, to LIVE in the urban core. That is also the tax base.

The PUBLIC process has housing going into the West Harbour in 2 sites, Barton-Tiffany and Pier 8, bringing more people to the core.

Downtown has much diversity, in people, housing, economically, etc. This only reflects our rich and varied history. The character of the neighbourhoods, and their relationship with the downtown core and the waterfront, needs to be protected and enhanced. Downtown neighbourhoods need to be "liveable communities" also!

To quote "Raise the Hammer":

Public mega-projects are almost always a bad idea, costing too much and delivering too little. They demolish neighbourhoods to bolster politicans' egos.

Strengthen our existing neighbourhoods - a stadium is not a link to the west harbour. It is a wall.

Sheri Selway

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 19, 2009 at 13:49:10

Sheri,

Residential neighbourhoods surround all parts that are "close to the core". Sure the Barton-Tiffany plan is great. But who will spend the money to clean up these brownfields and implement the plan? ...the city? A project like this is the best opportunity to clean it up, and shouldn't be seen as a big "mega-project" on its own. Jackson square was a mega project, the Red Hill is a mega project.

As for it being a "wall" to the waterfront? How so? This can be avoided as long as everything is designed and planned properly. A pedestrian bridge can easily take you over the tracks... if the stadium is built right up to Bay Street, then it already has a connection across the exisitng bridge.... which is also a direction connection to the proposed GO/VIA that will be East down Stuart.

This stadium CAN strengthen the neighbourhood as long as its done right. It will bring in people spending money for sporting events, and could be open to the community for other local sporting events or just general public use (more specifically the velodrome half). With community access, this complex will make this a more liveable community, where you can do things other than watch TV in your home.

Now i ask, where do you suggest it go? Please don't say near the airport... or Confederation Park. All that will generate will be parking spaces, and a single use stadium that the community wont use beyond ticat games (because you have to leave the city to get to it in your car)

I can't wait to take a walk by the bay after a football game! ...and say hello to people in their homes along the way.

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By Barney Google (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2009 at 15:05:52

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By Barney Google (anonymous) | Posted November 19, 2009 at 15:31:30

Sorry agout that. Too nearsighted to see the keyboard.

Close to the core AND public transportation is the intersection of Hamilton's main east-west arteries, the public transit that is planned to run along one or the other of them, along the GO line and (sorry Mr. Florida but at the moment highways are still major transportation routes and potential rail routes as well) and local expressways. That is, the west side of Dundurn St. between King and Main, just off the 403 and the CP rail line. Tens of thousands could visit this location at a time and cause much less disruption to nearby residents than 15,000 would cause marching to the west waterfront. Tens of thousands would see the name of the new stadium even if they did not visit it, significantly increasing the value of naming rights. Visibility and easy access would make it a more attractive destination not only for visitors from Hamilton, but also from KW, Toronto, London, Niagara and Buffalo, whether attending sports spectacles, conventions or tradeshows.

Considering the future stadium as a place for neighbourhood football games is not a reasonable definition of multi-use for this type of development, and paving the sidewalks with brick to a Stuart Street GO station does not reduce the disruption that might be cause to residents after a Mega Death rock concert. Dundurn Street provides vastly better commercial potential than should ever reasonably be visited upon a residential neighbourhood.

Which of course makes the location more expensive to develop, but at the same time, worth it. Similarly it puts the expense of remediating the west harbour for residential development onto the city, but this is also already such a desireable place to live, thanks in part to the more suitable development of the bay parks (drawing many people but not necessarily so many at one time) and is increasingly recognized as being so. We could expect area residential real estate prices to increase along with dependent municipal tax takes, to help pay for this too. Unless we screw up this potential with the wrong type of development.

It may cost more to do things right, but the current plan is just political expediency, leaving the city with a legacy of more of the same: a stadium that's commercial potential has been land-locked away from major transportation routes.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 19, 2009 at 16:56:37

Barton/Tiffany will sit empty for the rest of our lives if we honestly expect some Toronto condo builders to come along and redevelop it. They won't. a well-designed stadium can become a catalyst for well-designed condos. See PNC Park in San Fran and the new stadium in downtown San Diego.

To call Barton/Tiffany an established residential neighbourhood is a stretch as well. It's empty, former industrial land with a smattering of a handful of homes. It's the best possible urban location without damaging full-functioning neighbourhoods downtown.

But what does Richard Florida know anyhow?? Clearly this stadium belongs beside a rinky-dink airport in the middle of nowhere. That'll change Hamilton's image and cause massive spinoffs.

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By reuben (registered) - website | Posted November 19, 2009 at 19:45:25

what about the land behind the innovation park -- off dundurn/chatham? it is up for sale now as well.

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 08:49:27

Barney,

Your comments are strong, and make a lot of sense. That location on Dundurn would be a great spot... even though it won't be near GO it will still be along the LRT.

Only problem is.... that lands not available. Thats prime commercial land, as you pretty much described. How much of your taxes dollars are you willing to allow the city to use to purchase it? I couldn't even think of how much more it would cost....

Reuben,

The land behind the innovation park, although downtown, would prove to be just as useful as a stadium by the airport. Directly off the highway, but nothing to do nearby - unless you have the urge for research lol. But its still fairly close to the LRT line......

Afterthought.... anybody ever heard of the "Barton Freeway". I think it was supposed to be part of the perimeter road 50 years ago. Too bad that was never built (in this case). Then we wouldn't have the debate about highway access! It would have been right beside the barton-tiffany site (or directly on it....lol)

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 09:20:22

let's keep in mind, the waterfront stadium site is 2.5 km from the York/403 ramp.
It's a million times more accessible by car than Ivor Wynne, and thankfully is in an even better downtown location with beautiful vistas over our waterfront.
The views from the stadium alone with the skyline to the south and water to the north will do wonders for our city's image and exposure during sporting events and the Pan Am games.

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 10:04:36

agreed Jason....

although i will miss TSN's shots of Stelco/Dofasco behind the beechwood stands......

speaking of views, think of Pittsburgh! Both the football and baseball stadiums open out onto the water, with an amazing backdrop of the city core. unbelievable.

on a clear day, not only could you see the Skyway, and the harbour.... but maybe even make out downtown TO.

it would be really neat to catch the sunset over the high-level bridge, which is a great sight from pier 8

JM

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By Steeltown (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 10:14:05

For the B-Line they are suppose to get rid of the 403 ramps to Main St and make drivers use the ramps at York Blvd.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 10:33:48

Good letter to the editor in today's Spec pointing out the sale this week of Detroit's Silverdome for $500,000. It was built for 50 million in the boonies because of cheap land and good highway access. Now it's useless.

The Dundurn LRT area is a good idea but I don't think the shape, size and availability of the land is there.

Sorry, Sheri, but I can't see your comments as anything other than NIMBY. Yes, the downtown needs more residents but a stadium in this particular spot would serve Hamilton much better than houses. As others have pointed out, no one is making any moves to build anything else there anyway.

Get on board the harbour stadium. It going to be a blast.

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By Barney Google (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 11:29:04

To ignore residents to the south, east and west of the Tiffany location , communities stadium visitors will have to walk and/or drive through to get to the stadium, is to be deliberately opaque. The Tiffany site is a brownfield now, but would be completely given over to the stadium, butting up against those residential communities. Likewise commercial strips are on the edges of the residential communities, with residents between them and the proposed stadium. Bear in mind we should be thinking beyond the Pan Am 15,000, or even the TiCat 25-30,000 to a not-so-distant future when the city and region has grown even more, and a stadium that might serve as a regional entertainment centre. Multi-use does not mean high-school football. It means trade shows, conventions, rock concerts, monster truck smash 'em ups, etc., and possibly international soccer, bigger audiences on many more occasions, taxing the endurance of nearby residents. Thinking "out of the box" means thinking ahead.

Further, on it's way downtown the GO line does pass through a trench between the Fortino's plaza and the cricket pitch next to the highway, which is property now owned by the city. There is no station there, but there should be, and would be with a major entertainment complex built above it. This is a line that in future (thinking "out of the box" again) could be extended down the highway to points west, like Ancaster, the airport and Brantford, already major sources for commuters heading toward TO.

The property the city owns sits atop one of those big storm-water sewage storage tanks recently built by the city, likely posing an engineering challenge to constructing a stadium on top. Is the city not up for such a challenge? Have we not the talent, the skill? It's probable that construction overflow from the stadium would only require air-rights over the existing plaza. But the commercial potential from developing this site would more likely result in a partnership with current property owners. However, even if the city had to buy the location at greater expense than it will cost to buy and remediate the Tiffany brownfield there is much greater potential for return both in direct income from leasing space and in increased tax revenue from nearby commercial properties. Naming rights alone would be worth tens of millions at such a visible, high-profile location (and probably less than ten million in the Tiffany community.) A Dundurn Street location could serve a regional market. After Pan Am, Tiffany will only ever serve a dwindling local market.

Sometimes if you want to build the local community you have to spend the money to do it right. Dundurn is so obviously the right location you have to wonder why it was never on the list of locations. Back when the short list was introduced, The Spec said anywhere around Frid Street was deemed "too complex" with no further comment. What does "too complex" mean? That city administrators can't make it happen? That locals aren't up to the challenges? I don't want to speculate about conspiracies, but why are the only locations considered either downtown or at the city's edge next to highways when we can have the best of both locations, transit access adjacent to the downtown, at Dundurn Street?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 11:36:03

"Dundurn is so obviously the right location you have to wonder why it was never on the list of locations."

Isn't it zoned as part of the MIP employment area? That would make it ineligible for rezoning according to provincial employment land rules. Also it would be totally counter productive to plop a stadium on land that is supposed to be for spinoff businesses from the innovation park.

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 12:52:38

Barney, again your comments are very strong... i completely forgot about the "cathedral park" on the other side of the tracks. but is this big enough? again... it would probably have to include the Fortinos plaza site to fit (with a tunnel built for the rail tracks?). I won't lie, it's a great idea that could satisfy a lot of people...

I'm sure if the City had unlimited funds, they would definitely be up to the engineering challenge........ unfortunately they don't.

Try pitching the idea to Bob young? or Ron Foxcroft? ..."Fox 40 Field" They would be the only people in the City capable of funding such an engineering challenge. I doubt that they would also like to do it all out of their own pockets too. Cause the city won't be able to afford to buy it back.

I'll add this to my list of "great things that are only dreamable" in this city.... cause it's possible, just not affordable!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 15:00:39

hunter wrote:

Sorry, Sheri, but I can't see your comments as anything other than NIMBY.

I support the waterfront location, but I sympathize with Sheri. She is correct that there was a public process that designated these lands as residential. Processes like these need to be respected and should not be lightly shoved aside. She has every right to defend the public planning process in her neighbourhood without being labelled a NIMBY. That term is used far too carelessly to demonize those we disagree with (think Connaught). Let's use a little more caution before we toss out the 'N' word. It just raises the temperature in discussions like this, without illuminating anything.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 15:01:42

Put it off Dundurn at Cathedral Park and the land Fortinos is on - Fortinos gets some prime space to have a new stadium location. Underground parking. Call it Fortinos Field. Loblaws Stadium. Presidents Choice Park. I would be happy with anything that eliminates that horrible parking lot.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 15:58:57

Worst. Parking lot. Evah.

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 16:53:09

Can the Fortinos Field accomodate a plaque to remember the little brick house that stood in the parking lot? ...what a trooper!

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 17:26:04

As I said before, I think the Dundurn area is a great idea. But I also expect it is impossible for one reason or another or it would have popped up on an official list by now. I'm not an engineer. But I imagine city staff have ruled that site out for cost/engineering reasons.

The Dundurn area is also for all intents and purposes my backyard. Does that bother me and my family? Hell no. I would like nothing better than to cover that dangerous parking lot and walk to games. And if the noise from so much happy activity were to "tax my endurance" ten years from now I would move somewhere I like better.

The harbour site is not perfect. But it is clearly the best alternative presented. Oh and Hamilton doesn't need more capacity than 30k. Montreal Alouettes just signed a twenty year lease for their 25k stadium. The Cats would be profitable at a sold out full price 25k per year. Eastern Conference audiences rarely exceed non-discounted 30k. Rogers Centre (the dome) was built for 500 million and sold recently for 25 million. If the occasional 50,000 audience U2 concert was so valuable it would be reflected in the price. They can't sell it out for the Jays; they can't sell it out for the Bills. Mass audiences are fracturing. We don't need another dome.

Anyway, try and think of what you can do for your city instead of... you know...

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 17:42:41

JM said "Can the Fortinos Field accomodate a plaque to remember the little brick house that stood in the parking lot? ...what a trooper!"

all the concession stands will be built replicas of that house selling the best snacks that Galen Weston himself slaved over. Little parcels of meat wrapped in sesame seed encrusted green beans with a hint of Memories of Singapore sauce. Hamilton will truly come of age with this new stadium!

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 20, 2009 at 22:34:07

I live in one of the residential communities SW of the stadium site and I'd love nothing more than to see more people walking on the streets and helping to spur new businesses on York Blvd. And for the record, the Tiffany/Barton area has two official versions of the city's plan - one shows it all residential, the other shows a mix of residential with a stadium. The Pier 8 stadium site is likely the one some of you are remembering being completely removed from the plan...and still is.

There is zero opportunity for urban scale spinoff developments at Dundurn or the airport etc.... If you think the current Fortinos parking lot is bad, just watch and see the lot we get with a Dundurn or airport stadium.

If someone wants a beautiful waterfront view all to themselves, I'd suggest a nice lot in Muskoka, or even further north to avoid the crowds. A well planned stadium can be a catalyst in the urban area which is why virtually all new north american stadiums are downtowns. I realize Hamilton is one of the last bastions of sprawl-lovers who think that big box stores are some new rage that need to be jumped on by other cities as if we just discovered gold, but even here we should be able to get this right.....maybe.....

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By Joe and Henry (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2009 at 11:32:04

There are some good ideas here. I never thought of the Fortino's plaza, but there are some real advantages to that. I think the West Harbour plan is the strongest of the possible ones so far for many reasons: transportation (rail and highway), proximity to the core, and the clean-up of one of our numerous brownfields. I am at a loss however, as to why the current area of the stadium is not being considered. It definitely gives ambience to the game nights when you walk through a community to go to a game. If you have ever been to Arsenal in London, its a very similar look and feel. It seems like there are a few options - We could blow away the former Scott Park for the good of the city (sorry all you alumni) and build the stadium there. It would be close to the LRT and still in a central location. What is the deal with Consumer Glass (formerly Dominion Glass) on Gage, north of Barton? This needs to be cleaned up. Couldn't we build it there. It would be right on a rail line, and steps from Burlington St./QEW? I know the backdrops are not as picturesque, since TSN never gets tired of showing pix of the mills. Maybe I'm living in a world of make-believe, but something has to be done about this area. These factories and jobs are never coming back.

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2009 at 17:29:43

Re: Current location (above comment)

The city ruled out this location way back claiming there is not enough space.

Did this required 'space' include Scott Park?? No idea. I am not sure of the details.

If I remember correctly, the site for Pan-Am games requires a practice track (400m) next to the stadium. This was part of the issue.

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By Shawn Selway - can't seem to create (anonymous) | Posted November 21, 2009 at 23:53:07

Nice to see some people actually thinking about our own particular geographic situation instead of repeating the usual cliches although there's lots of that too.

Every "brownfield" is different and we have little information about any of them except Hamilton Harbour, about which we have a great deal. A similar detailed mapping of our lands below the Mountain would be very useful when debates like this one are underway.

I find the use of Google maps in satellite view helpful in thinking about our choices. Compare the Barton-Bay-Queen precinct with the Dundurn -403 areas. Then have a look at the rest of the available tracts below the mountain.

Similarly for the American downtown sites that are sometimes mentioned as examples. Most large U.S. cities have highways going right through their historic centres. My favourite folly in this line is Charleston, West Virginia, which was built in a narrow river valley and now has interstates running straight through. Fabulously destructive. But I digress already.

Have a look (if you will) at Pittsburgh by satellite photo. The Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area has a population of 2.5 million. The historic centre has 300k, and dropping. In addition to the domed Mellon arena, they have two stadia. Heinz Field seats 65,000 for football, and has sold out for every game since 1972. PNC Park is the baseball stadium. Seats 38,000. These two would be side by side, were it not for the parking lot that separates them, and is itself twice the size of both combined. Google it up, folks. They are served by full size extensions of interstate highways that run straight through town.

What does this have to do with Hamilton? Absolutely nothing, I would say.

Now check Cleveland. Same deal. Pop. 2.2 million. Pop. in historic centre, 450K, dropping like a stone for the past decade. Cleveland Browns Stadium on the water seats 73,000. Served by an extension of I90 that runs down the shore. Oh, and by an airport about the size of ours, also right on the shore. The baseball stadium is Progressive (formerly Jacobs Field). Capacity: 43,000. Sits at the intersection of 77 and 90.

What does this have to do with Hamilton? Again, nothing whatever that I can see. Except for this: commentators who think that US stadia went downtown instead of out in the burbs where the roads are happen to be wrong. The roads are in the "downtown", and that is why the stadia are there. Did I mention that both Pittsburgh and Cleveland have rapid rail transit systems? Not relevant to stadium location question - there. Maybe here.

Clash: London calling to the imitation zone: forget about us, and go it alone.




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By jason (registered) | Posted November 22, 2009 at 14:41:59

I don't think anyone is saying that we should have highway access for a stadium. My point is that the harbourlands are a stones throw from the 403 and will have great downtown transit links.

It's far superior a location in terms of moving cars in and out than Ivor Wynne. Keep in mind, we are talking 25,000 , not 65,000 or 80,000.

Folks coming from the east can take Burlington Street and Wellington to Cannon and the stadium site. Folks from the Mountain, Burlington and points NW can use the 403 to York or Main.

It's easier to navigate than Ivor Wynne in the middle of the city and yet still redevelops a brownfield and helps to spur some waterfront/downtown revitalization. No location is perfect, but of our options the west harbour is the top of the list in my mind.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted November 23, 2009 at 12:59:09

If you look around the Stadiums on Pittsbugh's Northshore neighbourhood, you'll notice many of the empty lots have been infilled with Parking Garages with Street-front Retail, Condos/Lofts, New Businesses (JOBS)... All of which would never have been possible UNLESS the Brownfields were cleaned up.

So if North Enders were actually oposed to this stadium (which most aren't), then they could be denying their neighbourhoods the same spin-off effects as Pittsburgh.

(Keep in mind that Pittsburg's Downtown was surrounded by Steel Mills, not their 'east end'. So the fact that they have turned such an amazing corner, especially in Brownfield Cleanup & Job Creation along these clean lands, is just proof that Hamilton can too... IF We follow the lead of Cities like Pittsburgh rather than Mississauga, Burlington or Ajax!)

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By Really? (registered) | Posted November 23, 2009 at 13:10:32

Also...

RE: Vehicle Access, I was on the 279 during a Penguins game, and that Highway was backed up for an hour!

So regardless of how much highway access there is to an event/stadium/arena, you're going to encounter increased traffic! Especially if there's an ultra-convenient expressway at it's doorstep. Who WOULDN'T want to take it!?

Give people options: LRT, Walking, Cycling, HSR TiCat Express Buses, as well as driving.

Build some Parking Garages along Barton St with Street-front retail (cafe, bar, small restaurant...anything that will get used more than on game days). Put the Cdn Football Hall/Fame in the Stadium with Barton St, make it a destination with Modern Hall of Fame exhibits. Promote the Hell out of it on TSN, especially during CFL Games. TiCats Store could be moved here; As well as TigerTown Bar & Grill (or Grille if you want to get fancy).

Like... the options are endless, the potential is just rediculous! All of this, connected with Bayfront Parks which also Connects to Westdale via Waterfront Trail, connecting to Piers 8-9 WINGFEST, 'waterfront piazza', Guise St Retail. Parking Parking Parking down here! TiCat Trolley from Piers 8-9/Eastwood Park to Barton/Stuart.

...The ideas are endless!!

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 13:51:24

Really?,

stop it with the great ideas.... I'm getting too damn excited! now THATS a vision for the north end!

JM

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By always alternatives (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2009 at 16:28:00

We need to identify a downtown alternative, otherwise we are at risk of the Bay Street site falling through and the alternative site (airport) implemented.

Why not place the stadium at Kay Drage Park? Serviced by rail and next to the 403. Heck, build the stadium with the rail passing under its easternmost point, a brand new West Hamilton GO station dropping passengers off right at the gate (and in close proximity to Innovation Park). Easliy accessible by multimodal transportation and enough 403 visibility for handsome price on the stadium's naming rights.

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By hunter (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 11:02:24

I've thought about Kay Drage too. But I think it used to be a garbage dump and you probably can't build on top of that kind of foundation. Also it's a little narrow. There's the train. It's a little complex. Would love a train station around there though..

As for the Fortinos cottage. I'm glad it was removed but I think they could have at least put a plaque in the asphalt or on a post saying 'we broke a promise to this family' and explaining the deathbed promise etc. Wouldn't cost much.

thespec.com/article/397054

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 25, 2009 at 13:06:41

Really? You've got some awesome ideas. Hamilton's waterfront could really turn into a special place with proper planning and ideas like you've mentioned.

Back to the real world though - expect a stadium design with a huge surface parking lot somewhere near it and Tim Hortons outlet.

Sorry to say, but based on Hamilton's development track record, we've got to keep our expectations a little more realistic.

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By JM (registered) | Posted November 26, 2009 at 11:25:00

Thanks Jason.... that's what i meant by getting too excited.

I'm only going to get disappointed in the end, no matter where it goes.

JM

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By frank (registered) | Posted November 30, 2009 at 12:46:17

There's nothing wrong with being excited. I don't think there's a possibility of getting "too excited" either. It's the excitement produced from forward looking ideas that's contagious among open minded people!

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