Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop confirmed that a 5,500-6,500 seat stadium for community use will meet the Pan Am criteria, and further that there is no time to extend deadlines. On February 1, if Hamilton does not have a plan, the stadium will go elsewhere.
By Ryan McGreal
Published January 03, 2011
Toronto 2015 (formerly Pan Am HostCo) CEO Ian Troop spoke with Raise the Hammer by telephone today about the Pan Am stadium and Hamilton's role in the Pan Am Games.
Last August, Toronto 2015 indicated that without a pro sports legacy tenant, Hamilton could qualify for a 6,000 seat scalable stadium at the West Harbour. Mr. Troop confirmed that this is still a viable option for the City, noting that it was the City that wanted a larger stadium.
"When they were deliberating, Hamilton Council said they had no interest in a smaller stadium because it would be redundant with Ron Joyce Stadium in McMaster. If you look at our Plan B sites, they're all 5,500-6,500 seat stadiums that would be predominantly a community use."
Asked to clarify whether Hamilton's bid must be for a larger venue size and a professional tenant, Troop responded, "It doesn't. If Hamilton wanted to go with a 5,500-6,500 seat stadium, we would have gone with that."
He explained that there are two components to the idea of a legacy: that the facility is used, and that its financial model is sustainable.
"When you're dealing with the business side, the smaller stadium tends to be within the capacity of a community to afford. The financial legacy goes away. Dealing with a 25,000 seat facility, you start to worry about it being a White Elephant. A meaningful tenant becomes more important the bigger the facility is."
For the purposes of Toronto 2015, the location must meet the criteria the Pan Am organizing corporation has already made clear. "It must be a location we know we can build on, it would have to be in a transportation area that makes sense - the same critera we're using for Plan B facilities."
Troop added, "It would have to be ready to start on February 1. That's not a deadline, it's a start line to have our municipality defined by that date."
Asked whether it would be possible to extend the deadline again, for example to reconsider Confederation Park, Troop was blunt. "No. We've tried to be as flexible as we possibly can be, but we're now at a point where we've eaten all our flexibility and any schedule timing. Any further delays will risk or jeopardize our ability to deliver the Games on time."
Hamilton Pan Am Stadium plan is based around a 15,000 seat stadium funded by Toronto 2015 and the City's Future Fund. This is the facility for which Toronto 2015 has budgeted.
At that size, the stadium operating costs become high enough that it needs a viable legacy tenant to be viable. The obvious legacy tenant - and the City's partner through its Pan Am Games planning process - has been the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who need a new stadium to replace Ivor Wynne.
Given that the Ticats need a stadium with a 25,000 seat capacity or greater, Troop explained that capital funding for the balance of seating must come from the private sector.
It seemed like a perfect match: the City gets funding from senior government levels for a new stadium and the Ticats get a new home. However, by giving the Ticats a veto on a stadium location, the City also put the Ticats in a position in which they exerted considerable leverage over mostly public capital flows.
Asked whether he thought that was a strategic mistake, Troop responded, "That's an interesting question. I would see it as being part of our mandate to ensure we don't build White Elephants. We need to ensure the municipality knows what it's getting into, and a viable legacy is a used legacy. When you're dealing with a 25,000- or 15,000-seat facility, what's the use once the Games are over?"
That means "designing a facility with post-games in mind. It's an important factor and a reality that those communities [receiving Pan Am legacy facilities] are prepared to step up and finance, and answer questions around who is going to be the tenant."
With a 5,500-6,500 seat stadium, that issue goes away. "That requirement based on the need for a 15,000-seat or CFL-sized stadium and the need to ensure tenants to make it financially viable. When you get down to a 5,500 seat facility, now the municipality can handle it in the context of the annual budget. There's a lower burden of proof."
Troop reiterated a common theme he has asserted throughout this process: "Hamilton remains in the driver's seat of what it wants to do." But once again he warned, "Time is of the essence to make that decision. That's why we're working hard on a Plan B so if the stadium doesn't make sense for the Hamilton community, we won't jeopardize the Games."
With Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina musing that it's still not too late to put Confederation Park back on the agenda and the Ticats working with Paletta International to prepare a bid for an Aldershot stadium, there is a lot of uncertainty over which proposals are viable and which are simply wishful thinking.
Troop made it clear that there is no more room to slip on a site deadline. If Hamilton does not have a stadium plan finalized by February 1, Toronto 2015 will move to a Plan B facility in another municipality.
Asked about recent news reports citing the level of senior government funding for an Aldershot stadium at around $100 million, Troop pointed out that its capital funds are already earmarked.
"We have a certain amount of money, capital. Our money is fully allocated for all our projects - if anything, we have more needs than capital funds. It's important to live within our budget. If a smaller facility happens somewhere, that frees us up for something bigger elsewhere, e.g. a Velodrome."
Talking about the stadium financing, he confirmed, "The Pan Am stadium has been designed to be 15,000 seats, budgeted with the city. To build 25,000 costs considerably more. There was no plan to bridge that gap of $60 million (or up, based on acquisition of land costs). No one has come forward with a resolution to that gap."
In any location, the question remains: "How do you make the financing work?" He sees the same issue in a Burlington stadium. "We're maxed out at $70 million in 2014 dollars for a 15,000 seat stadium." Toronto 2015 cannot move forward with a stadium location if the balance of funding remains unknown.
Troop also took the opportunity to point out that the Stadium is not the only facet of the Pan Am Games' Hamilton legacy. "Hamilton will continue to be an important part of the Games, regardless of whether we play in the Ron Joyce stadium or in a second stadium."
"People have got to remember that a Velodrome is at play here. It could be a tremendous high-performance sports legacy. The focus on this stadium tends to distract everybody from the Velodrome, which could be a tremendous legacy with great impact on sport in Hamilton."