It's still not too late for the Ticats to partner with the City and the people of Hamilton to build a true community legacy.
By Ryan McGreal
Published July 30, 2010
The announcement by the Pan Am Host corporation that the track and field events are moving to Toronto and some soccer games are moving to Hamilton does nothing to weaken the case for a West Harbour stadium or strengthen the case for the East Mountain.
Neither does yesterday's announcement by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats that they want to spend $7 million of the Future Fund and $1.5 million of their own money to build an amphitheatre and "Pan Am Park" at the West Harbour.
The West Harbour still has the best multi-modal transit access - an essential criterion HostCo CEO Ian Troop reiterated yesterday - and the best potential to grow the city's economic base and build community by remediating a brownfield and fostering neighbouring investment.
In turn, the East Mountain is still a suburban, car dependent greenfield at the top of a flood-prone valley highway with huge capital costs for public infrastructure and no potential for stadium-related spinoff development. It still does not meet the expectations of the Future Fund Board of Governors. It still has poor long-term viability in an emerging economy of high and volatile oil prices.
If anything, the West Harbour will be an even better fit for the Ticats' soccer plans, given the large and enthusiastic base of support for soccer in the lower city. During the Open Streets Hamilton on June 6, an impromptu soccer game spontaneously started up at James Street and Robert Street - a 700-metre, eight-minute walk from the West Harbour.
As for the move itself, Athletics Canada had a legitimate concern that the track and field facilities would not be preserved as a community legacy coupled with a football stadium. Clearly the Ticats agreed, given their efforts to secure a legacy use for the stadium as a soccer venue.
It's also important to bear in mind Athletics Canada's other issue: the distance athletes would have to travel from the Pan Am Athletes' Village in the West Don Lands to the track and field events in Hamilton.
Apparently Athletics Canada raised a warning months ago about the distance from Toronto to Hamilton's West Harbour, which at least has excellent multi-modal access, including a nearby GO Station. The last-minute shift to a stadium on the far suburban perimeter of the city with minimal transit access surely did nothing to assuage their fears.
It's still not too late for the Ticats to partner with the City and the people of Hamilton to build a true community legacy that will fulfill the Pan Am criteria, support Places to Grow, and achieve the goals of the Future Fund while providing a viable long-term home for Hamilton's beloved CFL team.
They can start by fulfilling their promise to share the economic study which they claim proves the West Harbour can't work. Working together, the team and the city can surely overcome any obstacles and set them up for long-term success.
Nor is it too late for Council to do what it should have done at the start of the month and decisively reaffirm its commitment to the West Harbour.