CP Stadium Site: Unknown Costs, Unknown Funding, Uncertain Future

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 16, 2010

If there's one conclusion that jumps out of the City's last-minute, desperation-induced Pan Am stadium site scrounging, it's the confirmation and reconfirmation that the West Harbour really is Hamilton's best choice out of the available options.

All of the "compromise" site options the City has presented since the Hamilton Tiger-Cats refused to play at the West Harbour have come with major problems.

First, the East Mountain site that facilitator Michael Fenn proposed met none of the city's economic or social objectives but would have added tens of millions of dollars in new public costs to build a highway interchange off the Red Hill Valley Parkway, upgrade the surrounding roads, manage the increased storm water runoff, and move the hydro line transecting the property.

When Council listened to the public outrage, read the staff report and rejected that proposal to reaffirm the West Harbour, the stadium debate fell into a standoff until back-channel talks brought the Ticats back to the table with a proposed location at McMaster Innovation Park.

McMaster University was surprised to learn that the City suddenly wanted to pre-empt our only innovation research park to build a retail facility for a struggling $15 million-a-year sports team, and after considering the proposal they concluded that it was fundamentally incompatible with the MIP strategy.

Staff's attention turned quickly to the nearby CP Rail Yard, a 51.3 acre plot bounded by Hwy 403 on the west, Aberdeen Ave on the north, and Studholme Rd on the south-east. The staff presentation to Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting by affable city manager Chris Murray revealed that the ultimate cost to develop this location is still unknown but expected to be extremely high.

Unknown Additional Costs

The planners putting this together will have to come up with the following money over and above the $102 million already committed by the City, the Province and the Federal government (these costs are all best-guess estimates based on the available information):

All in all, the additional costs could range between $35 million and $100 million over and above the $102 million already committed.

Possible Sources of Funding

The Ticats previously offered $15 million in investment into the "stadium and precinct" at an East Mountain site, but have not offered to contribute any money since Council rejected the East Mountain in August. On Tuesday, the team released an Economic Benefits report with highly dubious numbers and no line-by-line evidence to support their conclusions.

It is unlikely that City Councillors will be in any position to contribute more capital from municipal coffers. As it stands, the Future Fund Board of Governors has not yet considered the appropriateness of spending the Fund on a stadium at the CP rail yard site. On July 27, the Fund strongly rejected spending the money at the East Mountain and reaffirmed the economic and community-building benefits of the West Harbour location.

The Spectator reported today that the Province is "very interested" in considering a request from the city for more provincial funding.

So far, the Federal Government is keeping mum on the potential for additional funding. In the meantime, the Feds are under attack for their pork-barrel offer to contribute $180 million toward a new NHL hockey arena in Quebec City for the same investor who wants to launch a "Fox News North" TV network in Canada.

Update: The Spectator reports that the Feds are backing away from further stadium funding like it's radioactive.

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 wrote 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, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. 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 Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:44:27

The CHML folks are really banging the war-drum on this. Every time I hear anything about it it's Bill Kelly talking about how mayor Fred is going to lose the games and make us the laughing stock of Canada.

I have yet to hear any single person from those mud-slingers point out the obvious fact that it was Bob Young who turned a 7-year selection process into a 1-month selection process.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 10:59:52

well, it's not like CHML is the voice of the Ticats or anything.

Ryan, good overview, although you've slightly missed one piece in the timeline. The EM site didn't work for the city AND it didn't work for the Cats. They offered $15 million with strings attached, but then pulled that offer off the table and said that the site didn't work for them after further research. It was a 'compromise' site that only appeared to benefit the ORC and provincial government.

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By Tartan Triton (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:22:10

Talk radio is a laff, especially when delivered by a council dropout whose aspirations to higher office with the Liberals were cut short by -- gasp -- a female NDP candidate. Someone send the poor unfortunate some Neuticles in the size of his choice.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:55:38

Basically, since the Ticats haven't offered to contribute any money, why do we even care what they think about where we end up spending all the money to pay for a 25,000 seat stadium? Why does HostCo insist that the Ticats are the only valid "legacy tenant" anyway? How viable are they really as a legacy tenant if they're only an owner's willingness to run annual losses away from bankruptcy?

Comment edited by nobrainer on 2010-09-16 10:56:07

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By NO CP (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:26:27

If they are so set on the stadium why haven't they been courting other lessornery sports teams to come to Hamilton. What happened to the possible soccer team? I think if the council had another tenant they could take their necks out of their self imposed noose and quite all this flurry of useless action. The CP will not work as it is needed to make the MIP the minimum sustainable size, has no real studies to back it up, and is not wanted by neighbours. there is also the cost of the lands etc.......

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By cityfan (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 13:14:28

THE WH did win! I will agree with that Ryan! It's all on Bob now! He is getting his way as I figured he would. The council caved to the kicking and screaming Ticat supporters. If I were Bob I wouldn't make anymore problems for the City or non ticat fans. He got what he wanted and then some. Yes there are some unknown funding answers that need to be dealt with but even if we get extra funding Bob has to make Bob World profitable after the Games. If he is as smart and creative as people say he is he should be doing everything finacially possible to make this work. I don't believe the next council will bend over backwards with anymore more Tax dollars so Bob better get real creative and make this 'Stadium on a platter' thing work or it's our FF money down the drain and our only option is call up Brad Clark then call...'Hello Ticketmaster? ... yes, two tickets to Michael Bubble concert at the ACC please, thanks.

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By Centrist (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 14:29:43

I can't believe this stadium debate won't go away. As if there aren't more important things to discuss in this city. Just give the masses their Tim Hortons and TigerCats. That's all the people of Hamilton seem to deserve.

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2010 at 15:49:44

Well, @centrist...donuts are a kind of bread, and this whole TiCats fiasco could certainly be compared to a circus...

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2010 at 16:11:26

I bet Fred is itching to vote West Harbour. If he isn't happy with CP even if the federal government says here is a boatload of cash, he should in principal, vote it down and stick with West Harbour.

I do agree with those that say, Fred shouldn't be hung to dry over this stadium non-sense. The Cats are to blame and now we see, HostCo is too with their loose defination of a 'Legacy' and flip-flopping as to whether or not they would fund the Harbour project.

I now believe if we lose these games that it would not be a defeat, but a victory. It would be saying "you know what, thanks for the offer, but no thanks.No football team and no host committee, is ever going to tell us where our stadium should or should not go."

We'll continue to explore our options on our own, over a proper period of time where numerous locations can be evaluated properly, and the Tiger-Cats will not be involved in the process other than giving them two options:

  1. Stay at Ivor Wynne and we can work together to addresss some of the existing concerns
  2. We'll research a site for a new stadium outside this HostCo process, if the Cats agree that wherever that location is, they will play there. A site where private investers are interested, and where the city and it's citizens feel a true Legacy can be left - not a legacy for the rich ro with just football in mind. We will work with Federal and Provincial governments to seek funding, with the aim to build so much more than a football stadium. If you want some revenue from parking, advertising, etc, give us a check up front with no strings attached to help us fund this project, because the stadium is for the people of this city and should be built with their dreams in mind.

Speaking of more than football, how about a stadium with a cooling system built into the floor of the stadium, to be able to use it for skating/hockey in the winter? How hard is it for the NHL to make these Winter Classics work ice wise? What about a stadium with a built in feature to address this? We could host annual AHL Winter Classics, have children play a game or so a year in an outdoor rink, offer public skating, etc. See this video I talk about doing this along Balsam, but I talk about retractable seating for a track, and cooling built into the floor. This design does need to be built in a residential neighborhood though. This type of stadium is meant to be a community use stadium - one accessible by public transit and thousands of people within walking or biking or snowshoe distance. :)

Not sure we actaully have time to research a stadium properly outside the Pan Am process, without having to spend $20M to repair the south stands to keep the Cats going until a new stadium is built. Perhaps that has something to do with the urgency for both sides to make this work - espcially the Cats. I believe 2010 was the year recommended to replace the south stands, and 2014 was the final year in the engineers 10 years plan to repair/replace all items mentioned in the report. The Cats did say when I talked to them earlier in the summer, that soon, the engineers will no longer sign off on the yearly safety inspection. Not sure how soon 'soon' is?

Ever wish that a billion dollars would suddenly land in your lap one morning? Although I would like to at least erase my debt and know what it's like to start over, I don't know that I would want to be rich. If I won a billion dollars (is there a billion dollar lottery? lol), I would buy the Cats and Ivor Wynne, just to have the peace of mind to know whether a restore and rejuvinate the lands lining Balsam could have worked.

You can try restore and build new if it doesn't work, but you can't build new and go back to the old if it doesn't.

I wish there was someone out there with some cash burning a hole in their pocket, who would like to give this dream a go. I would drop my job and put my heart and soul, into trying to prove that there is something very beautiful being overlooked here.

Sorry for those of you sick of my Ivor Wynne rants. I am getting equally as tired of talking about it. I long to write and think about something more important than football. It's just a football stadium. So why can't I get this virtual project out of my head?

Where did our summer go? I wonder if the book cover for the tale that was this past summer, will be 'The Stadium that Never Was.'

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 18:15:29

I live in Ward 1 so my voting is ridiculously easy in this upcoming election.

McHattie and Mayor Fred. Other than Merulla and McCarthy being consistently opposed to this project, they are the only two on the 'pro-stadium' side who have been consistent in their desire for the WH site. And the longer this goes on, the more correct they look.

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By HarvardGrad (anonymous) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 22:05:34

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted September 16, 2010 at 22:08:50

An extra hundred million dollars?

The first hundred million couldn't get this project off the ground, and if they go ahead with the CP site they'll have to start from scratch.

Taxpayers aren't a bottomless pit of money.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 23:18:28

It's like arguing that because a company has discontinues making a certain flavor of ice cream it proves that West Harbour was the best choice.

You're right, it's just like that. Or like saying that if a jellybean has discontinues a bowl that it is in, then you should vote Mayor Fred. None of it makes any sense. Just listen to yourselves!

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted September 16, 2010 at 23:18:41

This article on the Hamilton Spectator website tonight reports an unnamed source stating that no additional funding will be coming from the federal government to increase the seating capacity of the proposed Hamilton Pan Am stadium.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted September 17, 2010 at 09:17:22

Enjoyed that one Ryan!!

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By jonathan dalton (registered) | Posted September 17, 2010 at 10:42:32

Whoops I missed that post. Grey text was hard to read. Oh well.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 17, 2010 at 13:09:00

you didn't miss much.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted September 17, 2010 at 15:16:07

Where is you library at, sir?

Positions are often carved out based on poor research of topics. Time will tell that the WH fixation was ill founded.

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open." — Frank Zappa

What is driving the ongoing WH belief?

Is it some deep knowledge of the WH location or city rejuvination? No. It is the deep fear of waking up on Oct 26th to the realization that the previous mayor has been elected the mayor of Hamilton once again.

It is this unfounded fear that has driven some of our best minds in the community to stake out adversarial positions around the WH.

The unabated denigration of voices that choose to differ with the WH belief, is a result of this deep fear mixed with a false premise, that springs from linking the incumbent mayor’s political success to the WH location.

No discussions or truths can emerge from this dark space.

To understand how poor research can impact our positions -- read the many statements and also watch the video presentation that was made in defense of the MIP lands at the Sept 14th council meeting.

Then read this report titled: "The False Promise of the Entrepreneurial University" by Marc V. Levine, professor of history, economic development and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

If the topic on Innovation Parks was well researched, could the presentation to the council in support of MIP lands have been less melodramatic?

If you do think so, please pass this report on to Neil Everson, Peter George, Patrick Deane, Mark Chamberlain, Brian McHattie and Howard Elliot. Maybe we may finally have honest inquiries instead of fixations that polarize communities and devolve progress.

Given the trauma already suffered from the WH fixation, can the soon to surface trauma arising from Entertainment zones be mitigated by some good research? For those who want a head start, here is something worth considering.

There is more to Innovation Parks than most would like to know in our city. For those that are curious to know more, try this, just to see for yourself as to how easy it is to start great discussions - when the right premise is the starting point in the search for true innovation.

Supernova of Silicon Valley: What does it mean? --- " June, 1995, I had lunch at the Stanford Park Hotel and while leaving, I noticed a man holding a cane and sitting on a bench as though waiting for someone. I walked on by and then stopped, turned around, and walked back. I said, "Are you Mr. Hewlett?", and he replied, "Yes". I thanked him for his kindness in verifying information for me when I was writing my paper on "Fred Terman, The Father of Silicon Valley." He said "But Fred Terman didn't start Silicon Valley; the beginning of Silicon Valley was a supernova." He asked if I knew what a supernova was and I said yes, that it was an explosion of a large star. Mr. Hewlett spoke so softly that it was difficult to catch every word, but he proceeded to explain that a supernova caused a rippling effect that set the stage for future events. He explained that Lee de Forest, who was an electronics pioneer in the Palo Alto area in the early part of the Century, and his work were the supernova". (c) Carolyn Tajnai, 1995

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2010-09-17 14:26:29

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted September 17, 2010 at 16:13:11

Not entirely sure what you're getting at here Mahesh.

WH was voted for 7 times after a thorough examination of what would work best for the city. At the last second, with no support (beyond, of course, the super-top-secret-burn-before-reading reports that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that WH won't work but that no one else is allowed to see!) Bob Young threw a tantrum, stomped his foot and said "We won't play there", despite being involved in the process from the beginning and saying "We'll play where they decide to put the stadium".

It's really about controlling the revenue and Bob wants to make money from parking and everything around the game. Understandable, but if that's the desired result, he needs to invest his own money into it. Public money means that the stadium needs to benefit the public.

Does not wanting to lose the best choice count as being "fixated"? Maybe.

Does wanting public money spent benefiting the city instead of a sports team owner count as being fixated? Maybe.

Either way, count me in that group. Show us solid proof as to why WH is a failure and we'll consider your proof. Until then it's all about who benefits from the money.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted September 20, 2010 at 13:11:33

Perhaps the problem from the start, was that the Tiger-Cats stated they would play at whatever site the city chose? Not sure. Maybe Bob Young was busy with his other projects and didn't think much of the West Harbour decision until one day he drove around the neighborhood or anylized it on a map. Maybe like me, the thought of a waterfront stadium sounded nice and he didn't look into it any further until something changed.

For me, that change was East Mountain being put on the table. For Bob, who knows what that change was as we still really don't have much info surrounding 'why not West Harbour."

The whole problem with this process, is that that map Joey Coleman posted for us to see from last weeks Committee of the Whole meeting, should have been drawn up right from the start, and all those locations researched properly. It almost seems that the Harbour entered into everyone's thoughts and that became the only focus.

Do I think Fred and council should be hung to dry over this whole process? No. This whole Pan Am bid stinks on so many levels. HostCo has played us, divided us, told us it was our choice and then turned it around again. Every day there is something new in our paper's headlines. Something new to either get our hopes up, or drive another dagger into our hopes. Depending on what side you are 'rooting' for, it's been a rough ride.

For West Harbour supporters, East Mountain Supporters, and my fellow Ivor Wynne supporters, the outcome has been of great concern for us. East Mountain more so (at least I believe), was more driven out of fear of the Tiger-Cats leaving, and much less about that being a location that anyone but the Tiger-Cats were dreaming of. Of course, even they had said at that time, that location wasn't on the top of their list either.

Now we have MIP and CP and some old raceway in the middle of knowhwere and of course nowhere on that list, is Ivor Wynne. "It's always been our fallback to spend the $20M on Ivor Wynne and forego the new stadium", Sam Merulla said to me after I delegated at the last COW. For me though, 'being a fallback' is a kick in the head. Spending $20M on Ivor Wynne would be a kick in the head.

West Harbour may have been voted on 7 times, but had it been voted on with the city knowing the truth about Ivor Wynne and every other possible location in the city, it might have been different. Had they taken into account the number of people opposed of a new stadium being errected in their neighborhood, maybe 7 times would mean something. Having a stadium grandfathered in versus the culture shock of one moving in, I would think is completely different.

We can't afford this and we have known that from the start. I have no regrets personally because we have all learend a lot from this process. That the city ignored Ivor Wynne, let HostCo and the Cats pull the strings, has been frustrating. Voting West Harbour knowing the Cats wouldn't play there I thought was the right decision. It was the moment we all realized that this decision wasn't ours, but at that moment, we should have pulled out.

No stadium at the end of all of this is not failure. It's success. It's telling HostCo that the decision on where to put a stadium is ours. That this process has didvided us enough, and it's time to think about the million other things forgotten this past summer.

I just hope that if Ivor Wynne becomes our fallback, that this city will do more than what is required. Even just finally cleaning up the neighborhood by tearing down Scott Park and created mulit-level parking, we can clean up and help the (non)parking issue out a little.

As for the upcoming election and how this past summer relates to our choices ahead, I am not sure I was inspired by much this summer as I sat amongst the gallery in council chambers. I want a leader at the head of the table and in the chair that represents my ward, that inspires me. Someone I want to listen to. Someone I have great respect for. Someone who engages us and not only asks for our advice, but listens to it. Someone who shows us how we can do our part to change our city, and not count on council to do all the work for us.

Ward 2 is obviously a very engaged community. It is inspiring how many people there are running for office. I only wish that desire for change and to be involved, spread across all wards.

I am voting for change both in my ward, and at the head of the table. Not because of the stadium debate, but because so much in this city has seemed stagnent for too long. We just keep voting in the Fred's and Bob's and Larry's; making our election about a chosen few, but this election cannot be the Larry, Bob, and Fred show anymore. There are some great candidates that deserve our attention. We need leadership, not familiarity.

I want a leader who is in the kitchen cooking or serving food at community events, instead of handing out flyers at the door promiting their campaign.

I want to wake up the morning after this election, inspired that things are suddenly very different in our city; and in a good way.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2010-09-20 12:16:36

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 17:34:42

Please note Bob Young saying last week in the Spectator that,'the west habour was not the place to run a SPORTS MARKETING BUSINESS'. Bob has bigger plans than just running a football team folks. I think he wants what the KATZ group from Edmonton proposed to council.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted September 21, 2010 at 17:39:34

You mean what Katz proposed to council at the West Harbour?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2010 at 06:02:39

URL Laugh of the Day

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