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.
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):
Up to $50 million to upgrade the facility from 15,000 seats to 25,000 seats - though the cost estimate to build the stadium (may be on the high side).
$7 to $10 million to buy the rail yard property from CP, who are apparently eager to sell (assuming a cost per acre between $130,000 and $170,000).
$15 million to remediate the property. Staff reported on Tuesday that the cost to remediate this site will be around three times the cost to remediate the West Harbour.
$10 to $10 millions to upgrade the Aberdeen exit off Hwy 403 to accommodate increased event traffic. MTO would have to be involved, as Hwy 403 is a provincially-run highway.
The cost to move the 160,000 square foot, 60-employee Steelcare facility off the property.
The loss in potential tax assessment from future MIP-related businesses that will no longer be able to locate on the stadium site.
All in all, the additional costs could range between $35 million and $100 million over and above the $102 million already committed.
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.
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