Councillor Terry Whitehead argues that we should regard the Velodrome as an investment in a better quality of life, an improved image and an enhanced community college.
By Terry Whitehead
Published September 02, 2011
A lot has been said in the last number of days regarding the Pan Am Velodrome and process. I want to take this opportunity to provide some clarity on the issue.
First of all, I would like to start off by indicating that in this term of Council, I believe this is one of the best Councils I have had the honour and privilege to work with. Secondly, Chris Murray has a high level of integrity and my colleagues and I have full confidence in his role as City Manager.
Many members of Staff have been working tireless hours on the Pan Am file, as these files are very complex and involve a lot of due diligence as well as a constant state of flux. I can appreciate the frustration and the fair criticism on these type of initiatives.
This is not unique to Hamilton. In fact, there have been many articles that speak about the challenges, whether it is regarding the NHL arena in Edmonton, or many of the cities across North America that have been involved in these types of initiatives.
I believe that some of the criticisms and issues have been well-received by Staff. I know that lessons have been learned throughout this process. I believe that our decision-making at City Hall will only be improved from the lessons learned.
At this point, I do not want to dwell on the "What could have, should have" scenario. It is now time to focus on the job at hand.
What we know from the staff report that was presented to Council is that Toronto 2015 has increased their financial commitment from the original to cover 56% of the cost for a $12 million Velodrome, to cover their cost now based on an approximate $55 million Velodrome.
Our contribution is expected to be 44%, which brings our commitment to around $20 million.
Mohawk College is contributing the land, $2 million towards the Velodrome, and $15 million towards a facility that will accommodate the students at Mohawk College for a much needed healthy living space that will address their significant deficiency in this area. Their facility will also complement and be synergistic with the operations of the Velodrome.
We also know that the City of Hamilton's original financial commitment towards the Velodrome is $5 million. In addition, Staff recommended in the report that for us to go forward with the permanent Velodrome, it must be conditional on receiving $500,000 from the Pan Am Legacy Fund on an annual basis into perpetuity.
If TO2015 agrees, this is a significant breakthrough. Unlike many of our recreational facilities or even HECFI, we would have a commitment to offset the ongoing operating cost while building up the capital reserve to sustain the Velodrome for years to come. This is a significant improvement from the ongoing subsidies we provide for the HECFI facilities.
The key issue at this time is the approximate $15 million shortfall on the capital for the development of the $55 million facility. Staff has been given 2 weeks to better clarify, as well as to identify partnerships and opportunities that would reduce the financial shortfall.
So the question becomes, "What is our vision of our community?" I believe that one of the measures of our City's strength is the quality of life, opportunities we provide for our residents, and healthy living.
We build arenas, recreation centers, swimming pools, soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, cricket courts, tennis courts, and more. This is just an example of some of the many investments that the City makes on behalf of the residents of this community.
None of these facilities make money. They are subsidized; however, they provide for a healthier community and a higher quality of life.
I see the Velodrome as a hybrid. Firstly, it enhances our image and provides national and international opportunities to our community.
Secondly, like many of the facilities I have identified, we can have a facility that provides for many of the cyclists' interests in our community, as well as provide a recreational amenity space for many of the residents - something that is already a part of our mantra and responsibility.
Thirdly, we understand the importance of having post-secondary institutions in our community. They enhance the City's position for economic development opportunities, an ability to have well-educated graduates that can feed into the job market makes Hamilton a very attractive place for investment.
The Velodrome would further enhance the status of Mohawk College provincially, nationally, and internationally, which benefits the City of Hamilton and all of its residents.
With the commitment of the $500,000 Legacy Fund, the Velodrome would be the least City-subsidized public facility in Hamilton.
It is important for Council to balance our financial capacity with decisions that would truly transform, strengthen, and enhance our quality of life, as well as increase our national and international profile and status as a city in this great country of Canada.
In conclusion, I know that Staff will do everything they can to provide us with the best and most accurate information so that Council can arrive at an informed decision as to whether the Velodrome would be an opportunity or a burden for the residents of this community.
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