Rushed planning, confused priorities conspire to mire stadium process in confusion and uncertainty.
By Ryan McGreal
Published January 25, 2011
So did City Councillors vote to take the West Harbour stadium proposal off the table at yesterday's General Issues Committee meeting, or didn't they? It's hard to say.
Councillor Brian McHattie moved a motion to keep the 15,000 seat West Harbour stadium option as a plan B in case Council can't figure out how to close the $36.5 million to $54.5 million funding shortfall for the Ivor Wynne Stadium renovation.
The committee voted against this, prompting the Spectator's Emma Reilly to write, "It's Ivor Wynne stadium or nothing."
Except ... the City already submitted a bid for a 5,500-6,500 seat scalable West Harbour stadium to Toronto 2015 on January 20. The following motion, included in the report for yesterday's meeting, was approved by Council on January 12 and is still on the official record:
That should arrangements for the use of Ivor Wynne Stadium as the Pan Am Stadium for some reason not be successful, the City of Hamilton prepare a written submission to TO2015 by January 20, 2011 stating a willingness to construct the 5,000 - 6,000 seat scalable Pan AM Games Soccer stadium, and that it be ratified by Council no later than February 1, 2011.
What happened to that bid?
McHattie certainly seems to believe the community-sized West Harbour bid is still in effect. In an email response to RTH he wrote noted that Council rejected his motion to keep the 15,000 seat WH stadium option, stating it was "no big deal in that staff did submit a proposal for the smaller stadium as required by TO2015 on Jan 20."
Councillor Brad Clark also believes the community-sized West Harbour stadium bid "may still survive". He adds that the motion Council approved yesterday "does not comply" with Toronto 2015's requirement that the City's stadium bid includes financial assurances that all the costs are funded and committed.
I was hoping City Manager Chris Murray - poor, long-suffering Chris Murray whose working life has been consumed by the ever-thrashing stadium file for months - could bring some clarity.
He confirmed that the City did submit the scalable West Harbour stadium proposal on January 20 and noted that the Couuncillors "directed us to focus on Ivor Wynne", but didn't specify whether the latter invalidates the former 5,000 seat proposal or only yesterday's 15,000 seat proposal.
According to McHattie, the 5,000 seat proposal will automatically kick in if Hamilton drops the Ivor Wynne proposal, though he notes (as have others) that the West Harbour community stadium will be evaluated along with the Plan B submissions from other municipalities.
Frankly, I have a distinct sense that no one quite knows what our Councillors actually decided yesterday.
Maybe we'll find out on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 9:30 AM when the General Issues Committee reconvenes to finish thrashing this stuff out; or, failing that, on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 9:30 AM when a special Council meeting makes a final decision.
Nothing like leaving things to the last minute.This, of course, is what happens when a group of people spends five tense hours trying to digest a hairy mess of policy options that was dumped on their laps at the last minute and includes big financial impacts, multiple unknown conditions and overlapping imperatives.
This is no way to run a $150 million business project.
Of course, it doesn't help that the Chair of the committee is the one leading the charge to pressure Councillors into making important, far-reaching decisions based on faulty objectives with only partial information and no time to stop and reflect.
Mayor Bob Bratina, who sprang the last-minute proposal to partially rebuild Ivor Wynne onto the City at a press conference two weeks ago, told Councillors yesterday that their priorities are to retain the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and to avoid a tax increase.
Nothing about securing legacy facilities for high-performance amateur sport, which is the mandate of the Pan Am Games.
Nothing about growing the city's economic base and building community, which is the mandate of the Future Fund. The Future Fund Board of Governors hasn't even been consulted on the proposal - and likely won't be before the February 1 deadline.
No - according to the Mayor, the City's biggest priority in developing a stadium plan is to retain the Ticats, who have not actually committed any money toward the stadium.
Speaking of which: Mayor Bob Bratina and Councillor Lloyd Ferguson argued yesterday that the Infrastructure Ontario cost estimate for the Ivor Wynne renovation is inflated to take potential cost overruns into account, and that Council can safely assume the real cost will be lower.
Murray seems to disagree with this blithe dismissal of the potential for surprises. "Given where we are in the design process its prudent for IO to carry a healthy amount of risk and contingency."
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