Sports

It's 2010: Let's Act Like It

By Jason Leach
Published July 07, 2010

Dear Council,

As a resident of Hamilton who has traveled to many cities and cares deeply about the rebirth of our own city, I often feel like I'm living in a time warp here in Hamilton. Now we're going to trot out a 40 year old suburban stadium idea in 2010?

Seriously?

Maybe some of this is a result of self-fulfilling prophecy. A couple of years ago I remember telling my neighbours (who were all excited about the prospects of a 10 minute walk to the west harbour stadium) that if there's any city left on the continent that has the potential to screw up a decision like this and build the stadium out in no-man's land, far removed from downtown and the water, it was Hamilton.

Two years later, here we are. For clarification, I think council has been bang on the money so far in this debate. The Cats are out to lunch and I can back up that statement by filling your inbox with case after case of pro sports teams in North America demolishing highway-side, suburban stadiums so they can build new ones in the heart of their cities.

The Pontiac Silverdome was built for $55 million in 1975 and recently sold for $500,000. You can expect a similar return on investment here in a few decades if we make the same mistake. This is really what bugs me. We refuse to learn from other cities - their mistakes and their successes.

Michigan and Detroit, specifically, have been mired in a horrendous economic slump in the past couple of decades, yet their sports teams have recently opened state-of-the-art facilities downtown that are helping redevelop a run-down neighbourhood.

Go sit in Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and ask yourself, "would I rather have this experience in Hamilton, or the Ralph Wilson experience?" No contest in my opinion, and my many friends from Buffalo will confirm this with their desperation for a new downtown stadium. They hate the Ralph and its remote location.

I'm not interested in comparing us to sprawling sun-belt cities like Dallas. Our comparisons are Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and so on.

Please take 30 minutes this morning and do some research online about the spinoffs in the Baltimore stadium district or in the Pittsburgh stadium district before casting your vote for Hamilton's stadium. Here are some photos for inspiration.

We only get to make this decision once. The Cats and their so-called consultant are completely off the mark and I urge you not to be bought by their last minute tactics or pressure.

This Hamilton resident would rather lose the Pan Am Stadium instead of build it in the wrong location.

It's 2010, Hamilton. Let's act like it.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

18 Comments

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By kevin (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 10:07:51

This is crazy! What's going to happen when gas is $4 per litre? I'm shocked and sick by this decision. It's enough for me to finally give up on Hamilton and the clowns running this town. I saw 2 seconds of Bill Kelly this morning on cable 14 (I was looking for the weather) and he was deleriously giddy about a suburban stadium and sucking up to Bob Young like no tomorrow. If I didn't have kids, I'd move.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 10:26:23

Bill Kelly is a tool! literally! excellently put jason. did you send the email to all the councilors and mps?

Comment edited by frank on 2010-07-07 09:26:58

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By Trevor (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 11:13:45

I'm not in full support of the proposed location but it's not as if nobody lives in the area. If you live in the lower west end of the city (as I do) it is a quick trip by car, bike, or bus. And like it or not, there is a fast growing population there on the edge of Ancaster.

But if this "coulda been" the thing that started an actual sensible use of the bayfront area then it is a real shame.

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By Common Sense (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 11:21:56

I knew that the West Harbour was going to be the location for a new stadium when I learned that RTH and Mayor Fred were backing the idea....their track record speaks for itself.

Sure am glad its the same two horses pulling the LRT wagon!

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 11:36:46

You said it kevin. Now I know how Charlie Brown feels when Lucy pulls the football away...

I gues our only hope now is that the residents of the East Mountain put up a fight over this. City Hall seems to actually listen to the folks on the mountain, as opposed to us in the lower city who just get the shaft.

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By Dave (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:10:56

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

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:12:23

I just sent this to my councillor:

I read the spec article this morning and saw the letter to council from Bob Young on the RTH website. I am going to have to disagree with the claims by Mr. Young that the East Mountain location is a good compromise. I am not an expert in stadium economics, but given the amount of government subsidies required for building them, I think they should be built in an area that can have the greatest economic spin off potential (ie, West Harbour).

If the Ticats want to fund a stadium in a remote location against the wishes of the city, they should pay 100% of the cost for operations of the facility and the club. A suburban stadium close to highways provides no such potential. This would be a waste of provincial and municipal money in my opinion.

Furthermore, the argument for growing the brand by catering to affluent suburbanites ignores many facts:

1) Firstly, the CFL schedule has 10 home games a year, and would remain empty for 355 days. Secondly, the promise of securing an MLS franchise is not tangible enough to warrant huge subsidies and the loss of a potential redevelopment catalyst. Hopefully, we have learned our lesson on building sport facilities with the hope of attracting a team.

2) The CFL is not a "national" sport. It is regionally popular in the markets that it serves. There is no guarantee that a new stadium, regardless of location, will be able to attract visitors from areas like Niagara, London, and Halton. Assuming the Ticats are successful in growing their brand, it should be noted that a stadium that is close to a rail station (James North) provides access to a large number of fans from the GTHA when train service is improved.

3) The Toronto FC was able to grow their brand by locating close to mass intra and inter-regional transit. That should be proof positive that creating energy and fan interest can be done without reverting to an archaic notion that the "driveway to driveway" experience is the way to go.

4) Redevelopment of the Downtown requires is a complex proposition, but return of a train station is a crucial step. One only needs to look at the recent building booms in Port Credit and Aldershot as examples. Ignoring this area will hinder our chances of gaining provincial money for transit improvements, both in terms of LRT and GO service.

5) U. S. suburban stadiums have proven to be failures (eg. Orchard Park, Pontiac) despite the fact that Americans have a very boisterous sports culture of tailgating and partying. Given that we have stricter enforcement of drinking infractions, the attraction of such a facility to Canadian football fans is low, and the likelihood of failure is even greater than with the examples above.

I am a ticat fan, but I'm a City of Hamilton fan first. I am deeply concerned that our best interests are being ignored by Mr. Young and the Football Club. So far, I have been pleased with the Mayor's stance on the West Harbour location, but now is not the time to capitulate. I would rather lose the Pan-Am stadium altogether that have it built in a remote suburban location.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:21:25

I think Bob Young knows more about running a business than you do.

Yeah, he's done such a great job with the Ticats that he's bleeding millions of dollars a year even though he has a free stadium and gets a big annual subsidy from the city. I "trust" something allright, his ability to squeeze the public purse to finance his rich-guy indulgence as a pro sports team owner.

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By Greg (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:26:52

I disagree out of the two sites the Redhill is better and I definitely would NOT want to lose the Pan Am Stadium.

Yes I know that everyone will disagree with me here and provide plenty of links about why its a bad idea but thats fine because this is my opinion like it or not.

I, like Billy Kelly, am glad because I want to see us have a stadium, keep the tiger-cats, and not be known as a City with a dysfunctional council (at least more than they already are). We can complain about the fact that now we have to drive there but people have to drive to Ivor Wynne and the Harbour; we live in a big city you can't expect to bike or walk everywhere. Why not use this as a good case to pressure local politicians to get there but ingear to increase our public transit?

Bob Young is putting out the cost to run the stadium and shelling out money to bring 2 Grey Cups to Hamilton. Aside from that he's looking into getting a soccer team for the stadium. More money that stays in Hamilton. What I don't want is to use the harbour and then get the guy from Edmonton running it, how awful would that be?

If our council screws this up and we get stripped of the Pan Am Games realize that no one is going to throw Hamilton another bone. They'll see us as a city that can't get its act together. We will never have a chance for a hockey team or another large event like this again.

If we make this just about Urban vs Suburban than we've missed the point and its another bike vs car debate.

PS. I live in an urban area of Hamilton.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:31:33

What I don't want is to use the harbour and then get the guy from Edmonton running it, how awful would that be?

That's exactly what I'm hoping for. Give me the 'guy from Edmonton' who is best buddies with Bettman and understands urban entertainment districts anyday of the week over this proposal.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 12:45:10

I love how Bob Young has managed to convince Hamiltonians that he is either the good guy or the victim in this situation. Now if we lose the Pan-Am bid, it will be "council's fault".
Mr Young, I hope you make a fortune. Fuck you.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 13:05:33

I hope all of you all are sending letters to politicians. This is seriously a bad idea!

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 13:08:14

To my councillor,

For what it's worth, this is just a quick note regarding the stadium debate and the report from Mr. Fenn. I trust and hope you will step out against any move to place the stadium on the east mountain. However I have very little faith in this process right now. I fully expect that the stadium will in fact end up at this new "compromise" location. Please convey the disappointment that many in the city and in our ward in particular will feel. I can only say that I'm getting tired of being disappointed with Hamilton, and had truly hoped that this would be a chance to do something exciting and bring some 21st century urban thinking here. Maybe I'm jumping the gun and I won't feel disappointed after hearing the results of the committee meeting tonight, but I'm not optimistic. Keep up the good work for our ward, its appreciated. Regards

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By Greg (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 13:10:59

jason, I see where your coming from however I think our opinions of the "guy from Edmonton" (it is Kay I think?). I think it was aboout 10 years or so ago when the Oilers wanted to move the bulldogs to TO (even though they were doing good) hence why I'd prefer to take my chances with Young who plans on keeping the Cats in Hamilton.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted July 07, 2010 at 13:12:45

@Greg,

I don't want to lose the Pan Am games either. I certainly don't want to lose the Ticats. I would love to have a Grey Cup party, and an MLS team would be nice too. Sustainable economic activity and urban revitalization are way more important than these sport diversions. It is possible to have both, but settling for a suburban location makes redevelopment much more unlikely. I've got nothing against the suburbs, but putting it there will hurt everyone, as taxes continue to rise with one regressive decision after another. This is not council's fault, and we can't fall for the "what will people think" scare tactic as a reason to do what we know in our hearts is wrong.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2010 at 14:39:59

Shockingly, I find myself on the same side as the Flamborough people.

If this thing isn't going to be downtown where it will actually improve our city in any measurable way, I don't really give a damn about it and I don't want a cent of my tax dollars going to support this boondoggle. Out in the suburbs it's not helping anyone, it's just a sink for my money.

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted July 07, 2010 at 18:58:55

This is what I wrote to my councillors. A trifle dramatic... but it's been a long day :)

Dear councillors,

Please, don't let me be disappointed in you - think long-term and think of the whole city in planning this stadium.

Please don't capitulate to Mr. Young's demands on location and the money committed if it's at that location. Please understand the much larger role this stadium plays..

Please, think strategically and understand how cities work, and understand that Hamilton must, must, must function as a city, not a suburb, if we want economic growth... and putting the stadium at the periphery of the city is not only outdated urban planning, it will not contribute to economic growth or destination clusters, it will not remediate a brownfield.

Certainly, neither location is perfect. But please do not make the mistake of putting the stadium on the east mountain.

Please, think long-term and make a decision that will do good for this city for more than a few years.

Please, understand that Hamilton as a city, and make a decision for the good of the city as a whole.

Please don't disappoint me -- I want to see you each do your jobs with the highest levels of integrity, care, forethought and long-term thinking - not put the stadium in the easier location without understanding the implications of that decision.

And I want to be able to stay here.. sometimes it seems like all Hamilton cares about is growth at its periphery, and the utter devaluing of the urban experience is appalling compared the other cities I've lived in. It's shameful... and this stadium could help turn some of that around - along with a whole lot of other things.

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By catamaran (anonymous) | Posted July 08, 2010 at 02:12:52


No TI Cats no stadium simple who do you think the stadium is for banjo contests ? The TI cats have the final say or no stadium . Bob Young knows his customers and guess what they drive cars so they need parking pretty simple.

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