The new stadium is where it is. Let's do it right by incorporating mixed-use facilities that enhance the public realm, increase accessibility and bring the community together.
By Jason Leach
Published September 05, 2014
As Hamilton's new stadium construction slowly comes down the home stretch, its time to look at maximizing the development and community potential in the surrounding blocks slated for various forms of demolition and development.
Love it or hate it, this is our new stadium, location and all.
New Pan Am Stadium (Image Credit: Ryan McGreal)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the City still have a unique opportunity to show that they are interested in leveraging some city-building with this new facility.
Much has been made of the new GO Station being built near the West Harbour, which would have had a platform literally at the stadium entrance.
When the Cats last took a poll of their ticket-holders, convenient transit access was ranked very high among respondents and their wishes for a new facility.
Hamilton's first planned light rail transit (LRT) line has a proposed station literally at the front entrance to the stadium.
How great would it be for Mountain, Dundas and Stoney Creek residents to be able to park at Eastgate Square or Fortino's on Dundurn and quickly be whisked to the stadium via LRT?
Why the football team has ignored this plea from their season ticket holders is baffling. Still, it's not too late to exercise some of the responsibility that surely comes with massive public subsidy and institutional presence in this town, by vocally pushing for great multi-modal connections to Tim Hortons Field.
The Cannon/York cycle track, and its planned eastern extension through the stadium district, offers another safe alternative for folks arriving to the stadium.
Every person who jumps aboard one of these new convenient options frees up road space and parking spots for those driving to the game. As is always the case when good options are presented to the public, everyone wins.
The city and school board continue to play Sim City with the various parcels of land around the stadium, yet every proposal to come forward so far is lacklustre and old-school at best.
During the stadium precinct planning process, the neighbourhood has clearly stated that enhancing the public realm and bringing the community together are priorities.
Let's create mixed-use facilities around this area, as opposed to box-walled stand-alone recreation centre or school facilities that do nothing to achieve the community goals.
Whatever public facility ends up being built across Cannon Street from the stadium should incorporate a pedestrian plaza/walkway from the LRT station on King, along with street-level uses facing Cannon that can bookend the new public gathering piazza at the south entry to the stadium.
Imagine a sports bar with a large patio facing Cannon. I happened to drive by the stadium on Labour Day during the game and noticed a large throng of people watching the game on the scoreboard from the public plaza.
The field is sunk low enough so that it isn't visible from the street, but people clearly liked the idea of watching the game with a view of the big screen and the fans on either side. It's as close as you can get to 'being there' without actually being there.
With creative encouragement from the team and ground-floor amenities across the street on Cannon, this could become a popular place to hang out during events, and yet still be a welcoming spot for a bite to eat for local residents, students and rec centre users the rest of the year.
Perhaps a grocery store, pharmacy or cafe could be lured into new street-facing retail space on Cannon as well, helping to fulfill one of the visions for this site to be used and busy 365 days a year.
We could also explore a public-private parternship which could include condos and apartments above the school or rec centre and parking housed underground, or at least in the lower levels of the building, not facing the street.
Look at the new Toronto high school integrated with residential development:
North Toronto Collegiate Institute (Image Credit: Sustainable Architecture and Building)
Adding the new top-notch community park in this area along with school and rec centre means the potential is here for a very busy neighbourhood and many opportunities for residents to gather and enjoy this new district.
Ideas have been floated for a farmers' market, food trucks, interactive water fountains and skating rink on the new stadium piazza.
Cannon Street plaza and potential development land are visible in lower left part of this great photo on Flickr. Here's a rendering of potential for the plaza from one of the City presentations to the neighbourhood:
Rendering of stadium pedestrian plaza
Let's push for integration with LRT and mixed uses in the new public facilities so this can truly become a development that ends up achieving its initial goals of being a catalyst for city-building and neighbourhood enhancement.