Sports

Pan Am Reports Require Tough Questions

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 29, 2011

As Councillors prepare to digest today's last-minute reports from staff about a proposed Velodrome at Mohawk, as well as an "update" that we're actually going to build a whole new stadium at Ivor Wynne rather than half a stadium with a refurbished North Stand - but at no additional cost - we must ask some difficult questions about the whole process:

Why was the earlier cost estimate so high?

In the end, the assumption that a whole stadium would cost on the order of $175 million resolved Councillors against reconfirming their previously-preferred choice of the West Harbour.

Is IWS actually a cheaper location than the West Harbour?

This morning, Mayor Bob Bratina went on the Bill Kelly Show on CHML to dispel the idea that the West Harbour is a viable site:

The West Harbour keeps popping up. And whatever the costs are of anything at the Mohawk site or the Ivor Wynne site, you would have to add a premium of a lot of money in order to clean the West Harbour site. Now I'll give you a quick example: the Waterfront Trust built a rink down in the North End, and they found out that that rink required $400,000 worth of soil remediation. So, that's about a fifth of an acre. So you can extrapolate for a 20 acre site, somewhere in the $35-40 million range for site clean-up. Even if it's half that, that's extra money on top of all the other expenses. So I hope we're not gonna belabour that one and it's covered in the report here.

However, the cost to remediate the West Harbour has already been studied and estimated at $3-5 million, not $35-40 million or even $18-20 million. Why is the Mayor citing unsupported figures on the radio?

At the same time, the WH site provides a number of countervailing financial benefits:

Finally, the city will have to spend the money at some point to remediate the West Harbour, if we are ever to fulfil our commitment to that site and to the community stuck with it.

Given that the City knew the North Stands could not be refurbished as early as the Spring of this year, why are we only hearing about it today?

In July, after Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young suggested IWS was going to be rebuilt rather than refurbished, everyone involved maintained that the project was still at a request for qualifications and could provide no details.

However, the detail that a refurbishment was not feasible seems important enough to share publicly sooner rather than later, regardless of the cost implication.

Unfortunately, the stadium process has been shrouded in secrecy since Young and Bratina announced their IWS proposal to the world - Council included - in a joint press conference.

Members of Council should press Murray and Bratina to determine who knew what, and when - and why Council was kept in the dark for so long.

What are we really getting out of the Mohawk Velodrome proposal?

Mohawk College is offering to contribute $2 million toward the Velodrome and associated parking, as well as $15 on an adjacent sports facility that will be for the use of students, not the public. This may be a good synergy for the school, but not so much for residents and taxpayers.

The only real benefit for taxpayers is the shared parking, but a velodrome on the West Harbour site would also benefit from shared parking with the Stadium, as well as thousands of existing spots in the immediate neigbhourhood.

All in all, some portion of $2 million toward the Velodrome itself is only a small fraction of the total cost, and the City would still be on the hook for any unfunded costs beyond its $5 million Future Fund contribution.


Update: I sent a note to the Council members of the Velodrome Committee - Councillors Russ Powers, Terry Whitehead, Brian McHattie and Robert Pasuta - to ask whether there are any agendas or minutes available for meetings they have had since January. Councillor Powers responded:

I'm not aware of any (but I'm sure that staff kept their own notes). The AC [advisory committee] was created to advise and assist staff (both internal and PanAm staff) in their development of a permanent, international-standard velodrome concept.

Asked why the meetings of the Velodrome committee did not come with agendas and published minutes, Powers replied:

As I said, it was an advisory committee to staff...it doesn't report to GIC or Council directly.

Powers further clarified:

Besides the 4 councillors, there were reps from the CCA, OCA, the NCCH, the Hamilton Cycling Club, the City of Hamilton Cycling Committee and reps from various social service advisors to advise the 4-6 city staff.

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. His articles have also been published in The Walrus and HuffPost. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 11:22:54

"However, the detail that a refurbishment was not feasible seems important enough to share publicly sooner rather than later, regardless of the cost implication."

Heh, understatement much? :)

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 11:31:00

Just posted in the Spec

"City staff told councillors a velodrome advisory committee endorsed the location in January and again at a meeting in May. Over that time frame, staff and Pan Am officials also “refined” the estimated cost for the project, between $35 and $45 million, which is about four times higher than a 2009 estimate."

McMaster had their go at the public trough, is it Mohawk's turn??

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-08-29 11:31:48

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By playa (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 11:31:56

Re mohawk and velodrome, once again we're being played and out negotiated by smarter partners who have a better idea what they want and what they're willing to trade for it.

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By smarter partners? (anonymous) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 13:29:47

>once again we're being played and out negotiated by smarter partners

smarter partners or 'better connected' partners. This whole process (if you can call it that) just reeks of the Hamilton/Burlington old boys club and a real chance of urban renewal is being wasted. It was bad enough that we lost a track to go in the stadium, then losing West Harbour and now potentially losing cycling too.

How the Ticats were able to link themselves as the legacy tenant is beyond me. I wouldn't consider them smarter but better connected. Remember that the dude from PanAM is a football guy. It is a shame that track and field and cycling and urban renewal and a community centre for sports and arts (concerts, etc.) in west harbour can't be considered that the people of Hamilton are the legacy. Amateur sports is the legacy.

Time to pack the bags and go to another city where progress is being made

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By Steve (registered) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 17:45:29

Do the 4 councillors on the Veladrome Committee make quorum? If so wouldn't that be a closed door meeting. Didn't some of these guys get investigated on that already? What happened to that case?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 29, 2011 at 19:16:38 in reply to Comment 68606

Do the 4 councillors on the Veladrome Committee make quorum? If so wouldn't that be a closed door meeting. Didn't some of these guys get investigated on that already? What happened to that case?

That case has nothing to do with this. It's important for us not to muddy the water in our frustration and/or anger.

This was an advisory committee. It wasn't a partial Council meeting. There was nothing being done in secret. Please let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

What does deserve examining is whether or not the pivotal recommendation by this committee was distributed amongst Council in any way shape or form (on May 26, 2011 this committee voted to support 'the direction to partner with Mohawk College as the preferred site of the Hamilton Velodrome.') before Friday's email...and if not, why not, considering there were four Councillors on it.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 21:58:02 in reply to Comment 68611

Isn't a committee a committee, advisory or otherwise? I thought committee meetings needed to be open and announced to public? Emma Reilly's article in The Spec tonight, http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl... seems to suggest that as well.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted August 29, 2011 at 19:18:55

Members of Council should press Murray and Bratina to determine who knew what, and when - and why Council was kept in the dark for so long.

Good point. I know that Councillors Clark and Farr did their part in proceeding down this path...but to be honest, at this point (at the conclusion of the meeting) I was just too fatigued to be able to remember now.

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By Bob (registered) | Posted August 29, 2011 at 19:27:30

Have I been noticing lately that the Mayor has not been commenting, responding or available for comment to the press? Yet on the other hand he seems to be on the Bill Kelly show quite a bit. Is that because the two of them are of the same opinions and it is a "safe" environment? Or is it just me?

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By waterboy (anonymous) | Posted September 01, 2011 at 20:48:13

After all has been said, debated, argued, lost then reviewed, why am I still reading a such preponderance for the viability of any or all sporting interests (ticats excluded)for the original West Harbour site proposal?

I wonder if we will lose the Velodrome to York University, too.

If they want it I am sure they will build it for a fraction of the cost.



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