The man who self-admittedly made one of the most foolish business decisions one could make feels entitled to jeopardize a City's dreams of renewal to enrich his franchise at taxpayer expense.
By Keanin Loomis
Published July 30, 2010
My, how a year changes things. I've written previously in this column about my family's settlement here last summer and how, upon unexpectedly falling in love with Hamilton and its people, I came to regard it as a city with all the assets necessary to experience a dramatic revitalization and position itself as a unique Canadian community.
A year ago, Hamilton was poised to enhance its existing assets, notably with light rail transit and the promise of a 2015 Pan Am party around a new stadium at the West Harbour.
Like so many young professionals and entrepreneurs, my values matched that of municipal and Provincial leaders who spoke of City Building. Seemingly on the precipice of progressive transformation, I decided to plant my flag here in Hamilton and participate in the wave of renewal in some way or another.
My efforts have succeeded as I've recently settled into a new job with an innovative organization located within walking distance of my West End neighborhood. In Hamilton, I've found that (with more than a little work) I've been able to find the quality of life that was so elusive in frenetic, cynical and expensive Washington, DC.
Hamilton became my family's safe harbor after getting spit out by the tumult of America's Great Recession, and things are thankfully looking up.
Then came Hurricane Bob, who by all accounts is exactly the kind of citizen you want in your city ... until he's handed a disproportionate amount of leverage on a silver platter.
I understand a man's prerogative to ensure that he gets the best deal for his business; but though it might have been business-savvy for Hurricane Bob to exercise his leverage just as the clock was to strike midnight, it certainly was not good citizenship, regardless of whatever he's previously done for this City or in "saving" the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
All along, seemingly indifferent to the stadium location determination, Hurricane Bob has single-handedly jeopardized promises of progressive urban revitalization and produced an ever-growing cacophony of contention that divides us as a community and threatens to burnish, rather than transform, Hamilton's image as a laughingstock.
Even if a stadium on the East Mountain ultimately works for the Ticats, Hamiltonians of every stripe are saying that it doesn't work for them.
Hurricane Bob is being disingenuous when he states that Ticats fans are clamoring for a driveway-to-driveway experience. The one nettlesome fact that he has never addressed, let alone been able to counter, is that the success of the Ticats at poor old Ivor Wynne proves that as long as he puts a good product on the field, people will flock to support his team.
In fact, convenient or not, Ticat fans pride themselves on the uniqueness of Ivor Wynne's neighborhood location. This is part of the soul and character of the Ticats and Hamilton and will be lost in the Olive Garden of stadiums.
Instead, the person to whom the driveway-to-driveway experience makes most sense is the very one who would control all access to the destination driveway. One of the reasons the Ticats have not been transparent in their analysis is that it is unpalatable in this day and age to defend the paving of paradise to put up a parking lot - especially one at the top of an already flood-prone valley.
Another is that if the taxpayers are really able to study the cash flow, they will realize just how much of a sweetheart deal Hurricane Bob is getting at their expense.
I settled here because of the promise of exciting changes on the horizon. However, if I were to have arrived here this August instead of last, the chaotic and embarrassing nature of this unfolding drama and the sense of impending doom would have motivated me to move on.
The Ticats' newest proposal to bequeath a West Harbor "Pan Am Park" to the citizens using primarily the citizens' own money does not change my perception. In fact, the arrogance of it frustrates me further. ("Our objective is to provide the City of Hamilton a legacy after the Pan Am Games of 2015 in the West Harbor." "The City will earmark $7.0MM of the Future Fund towards the park." How magnanimous!)
While certainly an improvement on what currently exists at West Harbor, it simply makes this whole saga more sublime. It clearly leaves the impression that the Ticats' brass, like a band of Somali pirates, are steering a ship that passive Pan Am officials (or is it co-conspirators?) and impotent City Hall denizens should be in control of.
The uncertainty created by Hurricane Bob's gale-force winds has already forced high-profile track and field events to be moved to Toronto. Now we get a few - though not the most important! - soccer games, but certainly nothing that justifies building a 15,000 seat venue (do we bill the Ticats for that lost revenue?).
If West Harbor stadium falls through, no one will be at all surprised if Metrolinx, which has been eerily silent while watching intently as this drama unfolds, pulls the plug on our LRT plans.
With the Ticats' flat-out refusal to play at the West Harbor, Council should ignore their and the CFL's economic blackmail altogether and build a nice little velodrome with a nice little stadium for soccer next door.
Hell, throw in the amphitheater and other amenities in the Ticats' Carrot to the Concerned People of Hamilton, because those would be nice too. We'll have a manageable post-games legacy to exploit and we won't have to further pillage the Future Fund to construct some rich man's plaything.
Let Hurricane Bob stay at Ivor Wynne or build his mountain monstrosity on his own or wreak havoc in some other locale - he doesn't deserve any of our money anymore.
Despite attempts at deflection and obfuscation, this farce lays at the feet of one man who bought the Ticats because owning a professional sports team is every man's dream and he was fortunate enough to have the resources to do so.
Hurricane Bob made the worst business decision of his life. Sadly, with a gun at its head, a compliant (or just plain gutless?) Council will likely agree to increase the value of his franchise and minimize his losses at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, long-time consensus to leverage an influx of taxpayer money into rebuilding a city vanishes, leaving a divided and sputtering community as Hurricane Bob's greatest legacy.
I know change is hard, no matter how sensible, but it might be proving too hard for Hamilton's existing decision-makers. I wish I knew that each councillor's actions would have consequences - but if they did, Council never would have let one man hijack this process in the first place.
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