By Jason Leach
Published January 26, 2011
As we (hopefully) approach the end of this prolonged Pan Am Stadium discussion, I would like to add my thoughts to the pile of emails and calls I'm sure you're receiving, as well as present some financial food for thought. You're busy, so I'll keep it short and sweet.
1. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are paying nothing for this stadium. It's fine to ask, "Is Hamilton better without them?", but that doesn't really matter. Is Hamilton better without SISO? What about US Steel?
If our logic for funding decisions is now based on whether or not Hamilton is better with or without something, expect a lineup around the block at City Hall with very worthwhile organizations and companies looking for a similar free handout.
2. If the Cats aren't going to pay substantial money into the stadium, I think Hamilton council is well within your rights to tell them where the stadium will go. As we all know, the spinoff effects at the West Harbour are far greater than Ivor Wynne.
We need this seed money to get the land clean-up underway at the West Harbour so folks like Whitestar, Molinaro and others can start building condos, shops and increasing our tax base and image.
To allow the Cats to pick the site and pay nothing is corporate welfare at its absolute worst. I expect more from my proud city.
3. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm seeing substantial cost savings in the order of $22-$25 million that can be had simply by moving the stadium to the West Harbour. Here is the breakdown:
On top of this money, which was reported publicly and discussed by council on Monday, there are unknown monies to be had in the form of increased tax revenue at BOTH the newly redeveloped Ivor Wynne site and the new developments that will take place at the West Harbour site.
The Ivor Wynne site has a ton of potential as a new, vibrant, mixed-use community that can enhance the surrounding residential neighbourhoods and even be designed with with a new main street.
This is a new suburban street built near Portland, surrounded by town homes, walkups, single homes, lofts and community park space along an LRT line. We are planning an LRT stop at Scott Park. The potential is enormous:
Orenco Station, Portland (Image Credit: Oregonlive.com)
I'm confident that millions more can be reaped in taxes from both of these sites by simply moving the stadium proposal to the West Harbour.
The fact that the Cats aren't paying anything would be easier to digest for people like me at a West Harbour solution, because I realize the massive redevelopment and spinoff potential that can be gained at both sites. The public money can be viewed as an investment into Hamilton, instead of merely a corporate handout with very little public benefit.
Even if the new developments at both sites could bring in $5-$10 million per year in taxes (a wild guess), suddenly we are looking at a total of $22-$25 million saved up front, with an additional $50-$100 million in new taxes over ten years.
Maybe I'm way high. Fine. Calculate a modest $2 million per year in taxes from both sites redeveloped. That's still $20 million over ten years.
The option we appear close to approving will result in no redevelopment at the harbour and very little at Ivor Wynne, due to the massive size of the stadium, parking lot and associated community use.
Finally, what about the Velodrome? This could be the crown jewel in our Pan Am bid. I was quite disturbed on Monday to hear City Finance Manager Rob Rossini warn you that the cost for the velodrome will be much higher than the $14 million number that has been thrown around, yet not give you an indication of what the cost will be.
The $22-$27 million in savings I've outlined above, in conjunction with possible extra money from the province and hopefully (not holding my breath) the Cats can satisfy a West Harbour stadium, and a permanent velodrome, and spur tax-generating redevelopment at both Ivor Wynne and West Harbour sites.
Some of you ran on very vocal platforms of fiscal responsibility in this recent election. Please make the right decision for Hamilton, and our tax base in this situation.