Sports

Why I Support the West Harbour

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 04, 2010

this blog entry has been updated

I'd love to suggest that everything that could possibly be said about the Great Pan Am Stadium Debate of 2010 has already been said, but the permutations of this fiasco seem to be endless and bottomless - the debate has gone downright fractal.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of clarifying where I stand on the matter I'd like to summarize my thinking.

1. I've argued from the beginning that the Pan Am stadium will be at best a net break-even in terms of direct revenue for the city - and that's only possible with a compact urban location that remediates a brownfield and provides opportunities for spinoff investment, if only because develop are more willing to invest near a stadium than near an abandoned toxic brownfield.

2. I can think of plenty of better uses for this public investment than a stadium. However, the fact is that Province will give us tens of millions of dollars for a new stadium, but not for any of a number of things that we need more than a stadium. Given that political reality, the best we can hope for is a stadium that maximizes the potential for incidental side benefits.

3. Even if it is more successful at attracting fans (which I don't believe - see below), the East Mountain will be a big money sink for the city, because it will generate zero incidental benefits and the Ticats plan to vacuum up all revenues from all event-related streams (concessions, parking, etc.). That's a pretty sweet deal for the team, but not so much for the taxpayers.

4. The East Mountain will entail major additional infrastructure costs over and above what the Ticats already expect the city to fork out - on the order of another $30 million, from what I'm hearing. No one seems to be in a position to pay this, but if Council capitulates to the bullying and chooses the East Mountain, Hamiltonians will ultimately be on the hook to make that decision work.

5. The team's argument that the East Mountain is accessible and the West Harbour is not is pure nonsense. Break it down:

All the complaints about accessibility at the West Harbour apply even more forcefully at the East Mountain, because there are simply no other significant travel options to get there. Nearly 10,000 cars will spend upwards of two hours trying to funnel into a parking lot that can only hold 7,000 cars at most - it's an exhausting exercise in gridlock just waiting to happen.

6. Meanwhile, the West Harbour is already within walking distance to 4,700 parking spots and will be a short walk from both the planned east-west and north-south LRT as well as a planned GO Train stop at LIUNA Station. Comparing the cost of building other recent stadiums, there's no reason we can't construct a 25,000 seat stadium for the money already committed.

7. There is exactly one reason why the Ticats want the East Mountain, and it has nothing to do with accessibility: they want it because they will become the monopoly provider of all the extraneous services event attendees will have to buy, like parking. That's it - every other argument is disingenuous at best.

The team is reduced these days to throwing everything and anything it can at the city and hoping that something sticks (including, most recently, pretending that a West Harbour stadium contravenes the city's Official Plan but an East Mountain does not). I'm actually embarrassed for them.

8. Finally, the choice of an East Mountain location, already economically problematic today, will only get progressively worse over time. The economic impetus toward re-urbanization, which we can already observe today, will only intensify over the coming years due to suburban build-out, declining global oil production, rising economic importance of Jacobs externalities, demographic changes and so on.

Ten years from now (a lifetime to the average politician), we will be scratching our heads wondering how anyone could possibly have thought the East Mountain would be a good place to spend $100 million on a stadium.

In closing, here's a (big) bonus reason to pick the West Harbour: if Hamilton refuses to commit to urban revitalization by directing large capital flows back into the city, why on earth would the Province be willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on a Hamilton light rail transit system?

P.S. We're still waiting for the Ticats to release their economic study proving the West Harbour can't work.

Update: I forgot to mention the planned GO Train stop at LIUNA Station. Thanks, Jason!

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 arienc (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 09:39:27

I read with interest that the Cats think they have a plan to provide parking at East Mountain without costing the city a dime. According to the city, it would cost $5K per space to provide paved surface parking up there (which would end up costing the team an extra $30 to $50 million).

What are they going to do...let their patrons park in the wheat field? I'd love to see that when it rains.

Maybe they're going to limit their fanbase to the 4x4 owner crowd? Yeehaw!

Comment edited by arienc on 2010-08-04 08:39:41

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By graham (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 09:57:17

Anybody else see this 'rally'? http://bit.ly/9j257C

Must RSVP. Somethings not quite right when you have to RSVP to a "public" rally.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:02:24

under point 6 you forgot one very important fact - a new GO Station will be built either right in the stadium, or a couple short blocks away next to LIUNA Station. The Cats own 'research' survey that was conducted with their fans showed that roughly 50% of season ticket holders and single game purchasers stated that they would love to keep the car at home and use GO Transit if a station was added near the stadium.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:07:01

space is limited

Great way to rationalize the low turnout.

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By HammerStorms (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:07:15

Bobby Young just hasn't made ANY sense since the beginning. His logic just seems to be to ensure this stadium fails for the city. Even with his proposal for an amphitheater in the harbour and a soccer facility on the mountain....!!! OBVIOUSLY the man is unaware where soccer central is in this town. He's obviously never been up James St. during the world cup. Or is it that obvious that Ryan is right? Bobby doesn't want to invest in the TiCats and the city first and foremost. Bobby just wants to invest in parking lots.

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By DBC (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:09:13

Bob Young can always change his name to CARTAKER.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:20:20

39% of season ticket holders and 53% of single ticket holders said they would take the GO train if there were a station nearby. Also, as far as amenities for a new stadium go, ticket holders rated parking as only 5th in importance and accessibility came in 7th, and this is with an average current ticket holder age of 50. Parking and accessibility will only become less relevant, and public transit more important for younger fans, that is if the current Ticat management were interested in the future of their franchise, and not simply sucking us dry for the duration of the 5 year shelf life of their current business plan.

Not only will the EM do nothing for the city, but it will do nothing for the fans either. This is all about controlling all the revenue streams, as you say, but how long will that be 'sustainable' when they are alienating their customers?

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:34:08

Anybody else see this 'rally'? http://bit.ly/9j257C

Go East Mountain. Space is limited. lol

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By Jarod (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:46:00

I know they can't say anything at all. Likely not a word or they're fired.

But I would be interested to know where some of the players stand on this. Sure everyone needs a job, and they have a pretty sweet one if you as me. But, player's know there's more behind their paycheck.

It boggles my mind to know that there are members of the team out there playing, and not able to say what they really think; it would drive me nuts....actually I think I would rather get fired. But that's me..not everyone else

as an amendment - I know most people will simply tow the party line or follow the leader because they have been fed incorrect information or propaganda - but I think it would be incorrect to assume that some of our players weren't free thinking, intelligent people. (And I'm not saying anyone has called them dumb little lemmings or anything..I'm just saying I haven't seen or heard anyone talking about how nuts it must be to be a player right now..though I might have missed a link or something along the way)*

Imagine we could have a room filled with well informed professionals in support of the WH and the full roster for the TiCats without their management, and inform them our side (not that any argument in favor of the WB isn't EASILY accessible)....make sure the room was private and that no one could listen in...maybe ask for a raise of hands without accusation who would support WH...imagine Bob Young knew people on his own team might slowly start despising him for turning their own fans against them..or maybe they already do...I would be livid.

Comment edited by Jarod on 2010-08-04 09:47:55

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By Backwards Hamilton Rides Again (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 10:51:19

115 million dollar proposal from THE WHITESTAR GROUP delivered Aug 2nd to the City and the Spectator not considered a MAJOR OFFER WORTHY OF COMMUNITY COVERAGE and DEBATE. WHY? are private-investors NOT GIVEN better coverage or credibility however The TiCats within an hour of 4-30 news coverage Aug 3rd CHALLENGING THE CITYS ZONING LAWS CONCERNING THE STADIUM get front and centre news coverage. Just boggles the mind!

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By Seeking many sides (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 11:21:25

Copied/pasted from the White Star Web Site --- http://www.whitestargroup.org/

Dear City of Hamilton Councilors,

"I believe that I do not speak incorrectly when I say without a doubt all councilors have always supported the eventual development of the West Harbour area. I do hope sincerely that our efforts were not found to be offensive to council but rather visionary and supportive to the City of Hamilton community. The West Harbour development initiative counts on your support. Attached is a letter in relation to my understanding of this matter." ~ Marino Rakovac

THE ISSUE IS NOT EAST VS WEST:

But Community Building

It is unfortunate that the necessity of the Tiger Cats to improve or replace their stadium has taken centre stage. It is and has always been a separate issue. The financial requirements for the stadium are far in excess of what this Pan Am opportunity can provide. A new way will have to be found in the future to accomplish the stadium requirements.

We must accept the conclusions of the Tiger Cat organization that they cannot be the tenants of a West Harbour venue. And also, that they just do not have the necessary capital to create a new stadium in a location of their choice.

We have relegated community building to secondary status in this ongoing football stadium debates.

It is essential to our community to develop the West Harbour in the format that we proposed. The opportunity that the Pan Am Games provide is one that we embrace and sincerely hope that at least some of the Pan Am facilities will be built in the West Harbour area along with our development plans.

The tenancies of the facilities in the future can be readily achieved and the venues can be built in a way to accommodate other entertainment/performance activities. The White Star Group would readily engage with the City of Hamilton to enter into an agreement to lease or manage the new facilities.

The soccer venue, with 15,000 seating capacity can easily be used for other entertainment purposes similar to the amphitheatre at Ontario Place which houses the same number of people. We are in the process of incorporating that extended vision into our plans without disrupting the recent vision that we suggested on August 2, 2010.

Our designs provide maximum flexibility and they can easily accommodate the Pan Am soccer venue in the existing format. By using our suggested ‘Venetian Plate’ method we could easily and economically add on or change the venue to suit other structures (i.e. stadiums, arenas, commercial developments, etc).

At this time the availability of investment capital to develop the West Harbor is tremendous.

The Tiger cats have made clear that they support the West Harbour community building developments but that they cannot be involved as tenants. Clearly the Future Fund, The Mayor, The White Star Group, a tremendous number of citizens, a good portion of the councilors and the facilitator all support the West Harbour development. If we accept the fact that the attempted incorporating of the football stadium into this Pan Am opportunity is just not feasible or possible then everything else will fall into place and much more funding will remain available for the development and revitalization of the West Harbor.

Our intention has always been the development of the West Harbour and not to contribute to the divisive elements that have characterized the debates. I wish the Tiger Cats well in their continued efforts in finding a new home. We remain loyal to the visions of a rejuvenated West Harbour area, which is good for our community at this time and long into the future.

We remain committed to infuse our own investment capital with the community of Hamilton to achieve the West Harbour goals.

Sincerely,

Marino Rakovac

White Star Group

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 12:05:29

so these guys want to use their own money to build condos, patios and a great neighbourhood along the waterfront. The Cats want to use our money to build a parking lot. Hmmmm, which group should we really be negotiating with??

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By gh (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 12:08:08


Interesting read.....more of what we already know.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4191/is_20030112/ai_n10013847/

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 12:36:03

I agree that the city really needs to talk more with the WhiteStar Group. They are much more interested in actually developing livable spaces downtown. That's exactly what the waterfront and the downtown need: More people living there, while preserving green space to allow for a continuous waterfront experience.

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By over'n'over (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 12:39:05

West harbour is a residential area. Any big event there will stream people through residential streets. The city's downtown will succeed by enticing people to live there, not by encouraging them to visit for 3-4 hours a few times a year. If putting such a facility in a residential community was good for nearby businesses, Ivor Wynne would be a great place and Barton & King Streets East would be booming. Building condos around parkland at in the west harbour would bring thousands of people into the area on a daily basis, and it's a great location to live.

I don't think the east mountain will be a big success either, but better to have this legacy sitting empty out at the Linc than in the city centre. Best of all would be to have it at a good central, commercial location where it can succeed, but that doesn't seem to be on the agenda at all. So this becomes as question of where to locate this looming failure.

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By JonD (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 12:41:42

A slightly modified East Mountain rally invite... http://noeastmountain.fileave.com/EastMo...

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2010 at 13:05:48

"I can think of plenty of better uses for this public investment than a stadium. However, the fact is that Province will give us tens of millions of dollars for a new stadium, but not for any of a number of things that we need more than a stadium. Given that political reality, the best we can hope for is a stadium that maximizes the potential for incidental side benefits."

Agreed. I have never been all that thrilled with the idea of a massive concrete development so close to the waterfront. It reminds me of all those horrendous Toronto waterfront condos. I would much rather see a tastefully built Opera House, Aquarium or museum, but I think that this development, if done carefully, could sit well with the surroundings. And, as you point out, this is about taking advantage of the present opportunity.

As an 'ex Hamiltonian' (do you ever really leave Hamilton...?) I'm heartened to see so much passion being put into this debate. I hope the city gets the outcome it deserves.

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2010 at 13:13:59

"If putting such a facility in a residential community was good for nearby businesses, Ivor Wynne would be a great place and Barton & King Streets East would be booming."

This speaks to Ryan's point about a stadium not being 'ideal' for the location (if I'm interpreting Ryan's point correctly...). However, comparing the WH location to IW is not fair. Although they are both residential the similarities end there. IW has limited access and not many other amenities. WH has lots of other features which will encourage folks to stick around before and after the event and enjoy the city and spend money. I would prefer to see a more functional facility built there - something that would 'fit' more with the surroundings and get more use, but there's nothing else being proposed or likely to be proposed so we have to look at this for what it is and ask: can we make it work?

The reality is that if Hamilton misses this opportunity it is unlikley that any other use for the site will be proposed, the brownfields will remain and the downtown will continue to decline.

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By little bo peep (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 13:29:52

Whitestar sounds like another Harry Stinson. Alot of talk and newspaper propaganda but no action.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 13:46:58

it's also unfair to compare the construction of ivor wynne 80 years ago to a modern, mixed use complex with a stadium, condos, shops, cafes etc..... Not to mention, people love being near water and Hamilton's west harbour is gorgeous. There will be much higher demand for condos, shopping and dining there than at King and Balsaam or Barton and Balsaam.

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By silent observer (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 14:06:40

Fabulous article.

Spelling out the reality of the money - clearly & undertandably...

I have been wrestling with this issue a bit...

The ready to go infrsstructure of the west harbour vs. east mountain laid bare...

The capitalist economic truth spelled out - private sector money will be spent around it...

Numbers of visitors. Numbers of Parking spaces. Two lane link & expressway reality...

You have swayed me back to the right decision...

Wonderful.

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By LoveIt (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 14:56:06

Like the White Star ‘Venetian Plate’ concept. One quality block at a time.
Guys, give them all nice names, they should be signature pieces of the mosaic to compliment the beautiful location.
I hope Mr. Stinson could also contribute to the skyline. I liked his buildings in Toronto.

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By mdruker (registered) - website | Posted August 04, 2010 at 19:04:41

P.S. We're still waiting for the Ticats to release their economic study proving the West Harbour can't work.

There probably is no such study. Call their bluff.

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By Conrad (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 20:48:24

Well just to let you know Bob that drivein and drive out will be an old thing ZERO tollorance for drink and driving hope you have thought of that .... so the trains and busses come in to play here :)

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By same name (anonymous) | Posted August 04, 2010 at 21:40:29

I think the go east site allows you to vote multiple times with the same name? Some one should look into this.
What is this Tamany Hall

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 00:38:15

Great summary! Remember how the enormous bill for the Red Hill Valley Parkway would be paid for over the years by the influx of development fees and increased tax base due to residential/retail/light industrial growth. All of that prime mountain real estate, is the city going to pay itself development fees and taxes? Another legacy of the RHVP scam.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 00:43:44

Is it true that Carmen's owner (Mercanti) has an application in to build a hotel and charity casino very close to the proposed East Mountain site? Can anyone confirm this or is it just conjecture. I've heard this rumor a few times.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 07:02:28

He's been trying to build a hotel for a few years now. I'm not sure about a casino though.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 07:50:32

I haven't heard anything about a casino either, but he's planning a small hotel. He's been very upfront about the fact that he stands to gain from a EM stadium, in fact he is often trotted out as proof that there will be economic spin-off benefits to the EM site.

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By arcadia (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 09:25:46

add the Jobs Prosperity Collaborative to the West Harbour Supporters list (http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/820368)

Just to tally it up then,

West Harbour:
The Future Fund Board of Governors
The Downtown BIA
Jobs Prosperity Collaborative
McMaster Students Union
Hamilton Burlington Realtors Association
A group of local architects (minus Trevor Garwood-Jones)
a group of local doctors specializing in community health
a number of Hess Village businesses

East Mountain:
The Ticats
Carmen's Best Western C Hotel
Herman Turkstra
Jack Astors on the Mountain
Trevor Garwood-Jones

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By z jones (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 11:55:34

There's no study, there's only a constant parade of goofy distractions to keep people scared and confused.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 18:44:25

I have it from Brad Clarke that Carmen's has an application for a 80 room hotel adjacent to the banquet center. Also, Brad (my councilor) will not commit to me what his vote will be!

Brad Clarke's quote after several phone calls and e-mails, "I appreciate your position and I thank you for sharing it with me. Please note that I cannot make any promises about any vote. I have over 10,000 homes in my ward and I do my best to represent them. My email has been overwhelmed as well as my voice mail."

On the casino question it sounds to me like an application was made but denied. Please see if you read into Brad's response what I read into it.

"As for the question regarding the hotel, yes they have an approved application for an 80 bed Hotel attached to their conference centre. No, there will not be a casino included. I checked with the Premier's office and the province will not be issuing any additional casino licesnses."

I have also been told that Carmen's is also the new owner the old Hamilton Mountain Bowl, which he renovated and re-named Splitsville. Can anybody confirm this?

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 19:10:35

I had a newspaper/rag show up on my door called The Bay Observer. The main headline... Tiger Cats Under Attack by Peggy Chapman. I will type out a choice quote from it for all to see.

Q: When did you first realize that the city was expecting the Ticats to move to the West Harbour? Did the mayor contact you or someone on city staff?

Bob Young: We knew that the WH was part of the original Pan Am bid by Hamilton, but we had been assured that that was just a place-holder and that discussions would happen with the Tiger Cats once the Pan Am Games Committee found out whether or not they had won the right to host the games.

There is MUCH more in the article. Bob says he was left out of the original discussions. Bob says the city has no experience running large audience events (Hello... HECFI...several festivals a year?). Bob says there have been too many visionary investments where the decision makers did not understand the financial implications (Red Hill Vally Parkway? Aerotropolis?) Bob says he is counting on the media across Hamilton to make sure the stadium is not one of those mistakes. Bob says the West Harbour was chosen for the wrong reasons and the problems of it were not properly studied. Bob says the reason he only holds 10 events a year and the reason he only pays token rent at Ivor Wynne is due to the residential nature of the location (mostly houses up here Bob). Bob says that with the amount of events he can have on the mountain vs. the harbour the taxpayers will save over 30 million in the first 10 years.

Wow.

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By George (registered) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 21:12:07

Herman Turkstra does not support EM (he clarified that in the Spec)

He's just anti-WH.

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By In the Know (anonymous) | Posted August 05, 2010 at 21:33:31

FYI, the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders' Association and several of its high profile members are pro-West Harbour as well. Add it to the list!

ITK

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By Jorge (anonymous) | Posted August 08, 2010 at 09:10:41


No Cats no Stadium .

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