Sports

Buffalo Columnist: Learn from Our Mistakes

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 23, 2010

Tim Schmitt, a sports columnist for the Niagara Gazette, wrote a column in Saturday asking whether Hamilton can learn from Buffalo's mistakes:

Back here in Western New York, where our gaffes have forced us to stalk retailers like Bass Pro, we long ago missed the window to put pieces downtown. The majority of college students in the area attend classes outside the boundaries of a city (we can lump Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda into that one), so we make do by scrambling for any project that might find its way into downtown areas, giving ridiculous tax breaks as bait. At the same time, we send 70,000 people to Orchard Park on at least seven Sundays a year, and watch as a couple thousand make the trek to Lewiston to watch Niagara basketball and hockey.

The good news, if you want to call it that, is that city leaders in Hamilton haven't blinked, drawing the ire of Young who's said in the last few weeks that he's considering relocating the franchise, maybe even to the tiny hamlet of Moncton, New Brunswick.

Course, if he does, and Hamilton still builds its 25,000-seat stadium on the west harbor where planners have urged, the city will certainly be in line for the next CFL team that becomes available.

In the end, smart planning will help the downtown area succeed, and many will reap the benefits (like they do on game nights at HSBC Arena).

If the owner gets his way, however, he's the only one who ends making a profit.

It's astonishing how quickly the essential soundness of investing in urban revitalization has taken a back seat in the ongoing public debate, squeezed out by the relentless flood of politics and propaganda.

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. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By Jason (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 08:57:57

It's also amazing that Young has received such bad advice from his helping hands. I may forward this piece to city council. They need to understand that this really is about good urban planning, even though some of them and the Ontario Liberals are making it all about politics.

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By Jorge (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 09:51:50

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By Jorge (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:08:16


Montreal,s McGill stadium does not need the downtown to revitalize it the downtown core is already vibrant don't compare Hamilton to the Montreal downtown .

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:13:46

What Percival Molson Stadium did for Montreal wasn't revitalizing the downtown; it revitalized the Alouettes. The Als were in serious danger of folding before the move to Molson. Now they are as hot a ticket as the Canadiens and the stadium experience is second-to-none despite the primitive facilities. So in that sense, the move downtown brought a lot of benefits to the city of Montreal.

As for Copps, the downtown is always hopping and exciting for big events at Copps, and it allows the city to bring in those big events which it would not otherwise attract. And even for the (lesser-attended) Bulldogs games, downtown around Copps is much busier - especially the bars pubs and restaurants - on game nights.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 11:29:25

I live close to Copps, and I can tell you from experience that anytime an event is going on; (be it a Bulldogs game, Elton John, Britney Spears, or the annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas show) the area around the stadium is packed with people. On the night of the Elton John concert I was feeling lazy and went out for dinner. Every restaurant in the area was packed, even the Quizno's had a line out the door! I had to wait until after the show started to get something to eat. No one on here can convince me that Copps doesn't do anything for the area.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 12:26:28

Hey Jorge,

Why is it that Copps is the fixation point for those against the WH? Perhaps people are jaded by that investment, or perhaps they suffer from some kind of amnesia. Recall that Hamilton, thanks to Ron Joyce, had the best bid in the 1990 expansion, but was denied because of the Maple Leaf veto. Recent events with the Balsillie attempt to bring a failing Phoenix team to Hamilton was once again prevented by a Maple Leaf veto. I don't remember anyone saying to Jim that downtown access and parking was going to be a problem. All the sycophantic slags came out of the woodwork to rally behind Jim's cause. If people have a problem with Copps being empty most nights, try not buying so much Leaf crap, and go to some Bulldog games. Hamilton already has a lively downtown despite what some people, who never go down there, want to believe. Yes, we have some rough spots, but we're working on it. Btw, there are seedy areas in Mtl like any city. I recall walking by one block on the famous St. Laurent that has strip clubs and is more or less an economic black hole on an otherwise cosmotolitan upscale street.

To your point about residential developments, a trickle has already started. I am optimistic that things will get better when we finally get all day train service. There are some things to be optimistic about with Hamilton Grand and Stinson Lofts closing recently. The Filmworks Lofts practically sold out in the first months after their release, as well, there are exciting conversions taking place like the Bay-Herkimer building.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 15:23:28

'Put the pieces Downtown.' This article nails it. The West Harbour Stadium will serve one purpose above and beyond any other. It will bring people Downtown. Hundreds of thousands of people yearly. If we are ever going to see Downtown Renewal this one development has the potential to be the catalyst. At least 5 Hotel developments Downtown have been stuck in the proposal stage for several years. Numerous mixed commercial/residential developments are in limbo. The one requirement for all these developments to move forward is attracting people back to the core to live, work and play. I don't think the divisive stadium debate is all about site location. The Tiger-Cats will forfeit hundreds of thousands of revenue dollars by agreeing to the best location for the City of Hamilton, West Harbour. All the highway locations will cause the city to forfeit millions in development fees and taxes. As well as squander yet another downtown renewal opportunity. The divide is a couple million yearly. One possible solution might be a community partnership with Bob Young and the Tiger-Cats. This could take many forms. Citizen shareholders, consortiums, community ownership, or some sort of hybrid. We need to get past this site debate by finding solutions that work for Greater Hamilton and our Tiger-Cats.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 16:37:29

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Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-08-23 15:39:16

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 17:03:46

Show me a 25,000 seat stadium anywhere that could successfully house 45,000 people.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 17:04:28

I live close to Copps,

As do I. You're observations are the same ones we all observe anytime there is an event at Copps. I guess some people have no good arguments to make so they pick on Copps for some reason. Imagine an NHL team there? The imapct would be even more amazing. They built that facility in exactly the right spot.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 17:05:35

Bob, stick to your guns, the WH is a disaster site for a 45,000 plus Grey Cup event.

Is there a study somewhere concluding this?
Or are you just regurgitating the Cohon Koolaid??

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 17:31:26

A West Harbour stadium would be the ideal site for a Grey Cup. The Grey Cup event is a week long event with visitors from across Canada held in early November. What could possibly be better than a downtown location close to Hotel rooms, Copps, Bars, Restaurants, convention centre, Hamilton Place, Jackson Square upper plaza, Gore Park, City Hall Plaza, James North Art scene, Bayfront Park, Pier 4 Park, Cootes Paradise, Hess Village, International Village, Locke Street, Dundurn Castle etc. etc.,....The Grey Cup is exactly why the West Harbour is the best location.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 18:06:40

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Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-08-23 17:09:21

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 18:19:13

Which Hamilton are you a fan of hamiltonfan? Ohio?

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 18:59:38

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Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-08-23 18:00:17

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 19:02:36

Just change your username to BobYoungFan or better yet HamiltonConcernTroll.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 19:04:41

HamiltonFan said...
"Bob, stick to your guns, the WH is a disaster site for a 45,000 plus Grey Cup event."

Let me see if I can remember...1997 was the last time we hosted the Grey Cup. The event at IWS was not sold out and Timmmy Ho's had to buy the last 5000 tickets to prevent a national embarassment.

1972 was the year I was born, and I could research it but I don't care, because even if it did sell out and was a raucous success, the infrequency of these types of events hardly makes them worth factoring into a growth strategy for a city.

The reason why Hamilton doesn't have an NHL team has nothing to do with Hamilton. The reason we have no NHL team is because of the Toronto Maple Leafs (most powerful monopoly in pro sports), and to a lesser extent, the Buffalo Sabres (would eventually be bankrupted by competition from an NHL team in Hamilton).

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 19:44:29

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted August 23, 2010 at 20:44:50

If people have a problem with Copps being empty most nights, try not buying so much Leaf crap, and go to some Bulldog games.

I love you. More people need to say this stuff.

It doesn't matter if we build another Skydome downtown if nobody comes. If you want more people who look like you downtown, then go. If you want less failing businesses, spend some money. If you want more nightlife - go out to some shows/bars/clubs. And if you want it cleaner then come down and help Matt Jelly clean it up.

This isn't something anyone's gonna do for us. Having a vibrant downtown culture means that people need to take part in it, not just pass laws or build boondoggle projects.

I've been accosted more times in Westdale than downtown or the north end - and I spend a lot of time here. More people have been killed at Limeridge in recent years than Jackson Square. It's easy to call downtown "scary" when you live on the south mountain. But try it out...you might like it.

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By cityfan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 21:55:07

HamiltonFan you must be my evil twin brother....!

I'm glad there is so much hard facts behind the WH location. Thanks for letting the public know guys.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 22:28:41

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By realfreeenterpriser (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 22:45:46

I thought we were talking about how Buffalo was revitalizing its downtown but anyway Hamilton Fan:

What, specifically, would he have told Council? Standing up at a Council meeting and saying "I got a call from the Premier's office" wouldn't really do much, would it?

If this was serious it would have been in writing addressed to the Mayor and Council. It obviously wasn't or it would have already been leaked to DiIanni and the rest of the Purple Mafia and he'd be waving it around.

Can you explain why neither the Province nor the Premier have jumped in here to tell us a) that they called and b) exactly what they said?

This was just their backroom attempt to usurp a democratically elected Council and Fred Eisenberger had the good sense not to fall for it.

Comment edited by realfreeenterpriser on 2010-08-23 21:49:51

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 22:49:33

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted August 23, 2010 at 23:11:40

If there were no numbers, there was no offer.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2010 at 08:27:56

I love the comments from the anti WH crowd. They use words like disaster, white elephant, "experts say it won't work".... etc etc. NOT ONE OF THEM HAS CITED ANY STUDY QUOTED ANY KNOWN AND RESPECTED URBAN PLANNER OR STADIUM FACILITY BUILDER in their attempts to discredit WH. On the other hand, city staff, have over the last 10 years built a very solid case FOR the West Harbour including transportation studies, parking studies, potential for spin off effects on the downtown and on and on.

When Bob Young or Scott Mitchell or PJ Mercanti or any of the other "champions of enterprise" that oppose WH can actually put some paper on the table that supports their position, or bring forward one of their many so called "experts" that have advised them on what a disaster WH is going to be.......MAYBE I might begin to give them a bit of credibility. Until then I will continue to hold the position that they tried a power play that went off the rails and now they are trying to sabotage the democratic process so they can say "I told you so".

With respect to Mayor Eisenberger not revealing a phone call from Dalton McGuinty, what exactly was he supposed to say? "Um the Premier called me and tried to influence a municipal decision with an unsubstantiated promise of help and a mystery amount of money if we do A instead of B" ?

What would the public say if they found out their mayor had been bought by Dalton's Mafia?

The entire process of even looking at the east mountain was done to try and accomodate the Tiger Cats. This was AFTER years of study had gone into West Harbour and it had been selected by the City of Hamilton as the preferred site to build a stadium using over $60 million of our money. The East Mountain site FAILED miserably on a number of fronts. End of story.

Again this issue is NOT ABOUT BUILDING A STADIUM FOR A PRIVATE BUSINESS AND THEN HANDING THEM THE KEYS. Its about legacy sports infrastructure and city building. The West Harbour site meets both of those objectives.. The Tiger Cats should be jumping up and down with glee that they will have a new facility to play in and working with the city to find ways to maximize the opportunity before them.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 09:52:41

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By highwater (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 10:25:22

Nice concern troll, 'HamiltonFan'. Or should we call you SouthCarolinaFan, or CaretakerSockpuppet?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2010 at 11:47:12

Herman Turkstra is a NIMBY elitist whose primary interest is Herman Turkstra.

Name the studies Hamilton Fan. Who's report are you citing? Who's work are you citing? You can't. Because there are none.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 24, 2010 at 11:58:57

I don't think that's a fair characterization. Herman invested a lot of time and energy into Setting Sail, and feels understandable frustration that the city didn't hold up its end of the process, including a proposed 30 km/h speed limit in the North End that Council rejected on the grounds that this would make it harder for cars driving through (duh). He clearly sees the West Harbour as yet another example of the City asking neighbourhood residents for input and then doing what it wants.

However, in this case I'm not persuaded that his opinion represents what the neighbourhood wants. Certainly a high concentration of submissions to Our City, Our Future come from the downtown in general and the North End in particular, and most businesses in the area would love to see a stadium nearby.

It's also inaccurate to refer to the North End as a residential neighbourhood. Like any decent urban neighbourhood, it's mixed residential, commercial and industrial and a mixed neighbourhood is a valuable place to live precisely because of the concentration of diverse uses.

For a lot of people living, working and investing in the area, the Pan Am stadium looks like the best opportunity to recover an abandoned industrial brownfield that is currently a blight on its surroundings and convert it to a use that will fill the neighbourhood with people.

We also have plenty of examples, in other cities, of integrated stadium projects that include dense new residential and commercial investment. Indeed, such a model has the best chance of producing a net positive outcome, given that stadiums by themselves don't pay for themselves.

As I've written elsewhere, I can think of many better uses of the money than a stadium, and I can think of better uses of the land than a stadium; but I can't thinks of a better opportunity to pour $100 million in committed public funding from all three levels of government into an urban brownfield and its neighbourhood.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 20:40:44

WH is a disaster site for the Grey Cup that could be a 60,000 that will never, never be realized at such a dinky site like WH.

And yet Montreal can host their playoff games and Grey Cup game at the Olympic stadium in the middle of a residential neighbourhood without a massive parking lot and no highway nearby?

http://awards07.trbto.com/ctc/usbfiles/M...

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted August 24, 2010 at 21:53:55

Maybe the cars park under all those trees.

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By frank (registered) | Posted August 25, 2010 at 09:05:07

Nah, they have a new fangled parking lot in that pointy thing... ;)

Love parking lots like this:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2007/...

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