By Adrian Duyzer
Published January 07, 2011
While the Mayor and Council weigh in on the Pan Am Stadium debate, City of Hamilton staff have an important role in the process as well. Specifically, City Manager Chris Murray is the point person on the Pan Am file. Based on the facts as they are today, he should recommend that council proceed with a scalable West Harbour stadium because:
This recommendation would be in line with an option staff put on the table back in a August 31st report (PDF):
Alternative B: Council, through Report CM09006(d) approve the West Harbour precinct for the stadium and velodrome. Should Council continue with the West Harbour precinct, staff recommends:
(a) That the City Manager or his designate be authorized to negotiate an acceptable agreement with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats under which the team would play at the stadium, and/or to prepare a proposal that outlines the terms and options that the City would be prepared to offer to the Tiger-Cats to become a tenant or an operator of the stadium, and report back to Council; and
(b) That should the Tiger-Cats organization not wish to enter into an agreement to use a West Harbour stadium, that the City Manager or his designate be authorized to seek a professional soccer franchise to use the new stadium
(c) That, in keeping with a sustainable post-Pan Am Games use, staff negotiate with the Host Corporation for as large a stadium, as possible
(d) That staff create a development plan that leverages the stadium development for further precinct development and report back to Council.
Risks associated with the West Harbour include the position of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and whether the team will play at the new stadium. The City could build a scaleable stadium to participate in the Pan Am Games and work to secure other tenants such as a soccer team. The stadium could be designed with a future expansion in mind to ensure a more cost effective expansion. The Host Corporation has discussed the concept of a scaleable stadium with the City."
At the time, staff played down the scalable option and suggested Ron Joyce stadium was fine as a 6,000 seat community stadium and recommended working with the Tiger-cats to explore other full-size stadium locations.
However, the circumstances have clearly changed. Staff should recommend the scalable West Harbour option as it is the only one that is responsible from a City of Hamilton perspective which achieves many community goals.
Further, if staff does not recommend a new community stadium at West Harbour, they are effectively turning Ivor Wynne into a "white elephant": the stadium money, and the Tiger-Cats, will leave Hamilton. This is not in the community's interest, and I believe it would be irresponsible for the City Manager to recommend this.
From a City of Hamilton perspective, there is no corporate policy that says the welfare of Hamilton should be superseded by the welfare of the Tiger-Cats football club. To allow the Pan Am opportunity to leave Hamilton in favour of the Tiger-Cats' desires to use the Pan Am money elsewhere should not be supported in any way by City Staff.
Chris Murray should recommend what is best for the City of Hamilton in the current circumstances: A scalable West Harbour stadium.