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!
You must be logged in to comment.