Special Report: Pan Am

Future Fund Board Considers Appropriate Use of Stadium Money

The Future Fund Board of Governors will meet tomorrow, in part to discuss whether their endorsement of using Future Fund money for the Pan Am stadium is still warranted if the stadium goes on the East Mountain.

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 26, 2010

In his report on the Pan Am Stadium mediation process, facilitator Michael Fenn suggested that some funds might be made available to remediate the West Harbour, but did not specify where that money might come from.

His report suggests that the City might hold back some of the Future Fund money earmarked for the Pan Am stadium, but the Ticats are counting on the full $50 million for the East Mountain stadium.

Proposed East Mountain Pan Am Stadium site
Proposed East Mountain Pan Am Stadium site

The Future Fund Board of Governors, an advisory group that includes several community volunteers and councillors Brad Clark and Chad Collins, will be meeting this coming Tuesday, July 27, 2:30 PM at the Council Chambers, City Hall, 71 Main St. W., to consider whether the East Mountain is an acceptable location in which to invest the Future Fund money.

Citizens and representatives of organizations are welcome to attend the meeting as spectators and may request to make a five minute presentation to the Board. To request permission to address the board, send an email to Andy Grozelle, the City Clerk.

Board Mandate Debated

The mandate of the Future Fund is to grow the city's economic base, enhance the social fabric and build community.

The Governors can make recommendations to Council but those recommendations are non-binding.

Councillor Brad Clark argued to the governors in an email that their previous recommendation to commit the Fund to the Pan Am stadium "was not site specific" and questioned "the intention and the propriety of unilaterally changing the conditions to a previously approved funding allocation."

He added that it is "unrealistic" to think the change of site should "nullify the funding allocation" and concluded it would be "outsite of our authority" to add a stipulation that the stadium should be on a brownfield site.

In an email reply to Clark, Councillor Brian McHattie argued that Council decided to use the Future Fund for the stadium "without any input from the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors role really ended up being a bystander on this, which was unfortunate."

He concluded that while it's true that Council has the right to "bypass the Board of Governors and ignore any comments offered", the Board still has "the right to pass resolutions and share their thoughts with Council." McHattie agreed that the "legacy (i.e. city-building) aspects of the new proposal" are "less supportable".

Clark maintained in a subsequent email that the work of the Board "was completed when we forwarded our report to Council" and that a new meeting to reconsider the appropriateness of using the Future Fund money to build a greenfield Stadium "would be at best inappropriate and in the worst case deemed out of order."

Councillor Bob Bratina concured with Clark's assessment and added that the Board "should avoid clever interpretations and allow the process to be completed." He added, "End runs around the process will only diminish the process underway which has already had imperfections."

Board Entitled To Provide Advice

After reviewing the procedural rules for the Board, Clark acknowledged that they are entitled "to pass a proactive motion to provide unsolicited advice to the Council." He closed by reaffirming that the Board has "no real authority."

In a follow-up email, Councillor Scott Duvall wrote that he "would be happy to hear the Future Fund Board's thoughts before deciding whether Council would/could override their (or any other Boards) decisions, when we have requested that they make the best recommendations for the City."

Duvall added, "I find any suggestion of them having no authority to be insulting."

Councillor Terry Whitehead, in turn, affirmed, "It is good thing that the majority of councillors are very interested on what citizen volunteers, who take time to sit on boards and committees have to say."

Bratina, in turn, reminded that Council voted to direct $750,000 of the Future Fund toward purchasing a building on James North for Hamilton Artists Inc. after the Board had recommended against it.

He argued, "The Board has every right to make a statement, but its effect will be somewhat diminished by what will be seen as expediency related to recent events, not considered important when the Airport site was the preferred alternative."

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. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 26, 2010 at 09:26:50

I would like to propose that the Future Fund Board of Governors be re-designated with a more appropriate title. For example, the "Future Fund Board of Suggestion-Makers". Or possibly the "Future Fund Board of Time-Sinks".

Or, for the sake of brevity, "Those Chumps".

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 10:12:20

I spoke with the City Clerk on Friday and arranged to make a presentation. Hopefully I will be able to make it - client matters might get in the way - but I would note that a "Delegation" as such a presentation is called is at the discretion of the Board. They may choose not to hear you. There is a very specific form to this and talking to the City Clerk will help you out in this regard.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 11:28:19

Interesting article on San Diego's current stadium negotiations.

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By HAAA (anonymous) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 11:44:03

I am becoming ever more convinced that the right decision is no stadium.

From Kiely's link:

In 1999, Rosentraub’s “Major League Losers” attributed the growth of stadium subsidies to “local government leaders, dazzled by promises of economic growth from sports, mesmerized by visions of enhanced images for their communities, and captivated by a mythology of the importance of professional sports, (failing) to do their homework.”

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By booger eater living downtown (anonymous) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 12:43:15

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By F. Ward Cleat (anonymous) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 15:19:07

I would like to see the boards decision. Why else were they appointed? Those who oppose this meeting clearly have an agenda.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted July 26, 2010 at 16:41:52

If the board waives the rules to allow delegations, I'll be making a presentation tomorrow. It's time we had a little chat.

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By Imperial (anonymous) | Posted July 26, 2010 at 22:37:05

Council seems to be forgetting that we're in a democracy here. Citizen committees are an extension of the public voting process that gave them their jobs. For Council to basically brush aside the advice of dedicated volunteers is disgraceful.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted July 27, 2010 at 02:25:53


As a person who has sat on many citizen advisory committees over the years I can tell you that the exact opposite is true. Citzens committees at City Hall are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of council. They are there to advise only. City council is under no legal obligation to take that advice and for the most part don't. Thats one of the reasons I no longer volunteer my time at City Hall. It's a complete and total waste of time.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted July 27, 2010 at 09:19:09

I just heard the last bit of an interview on the CBC last night with the author of a recent book - Bad sports, How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love by Dave Zirin. http://www.amazon.ca/Bad-Sports-Owners-R...

It sounds so timely. Zurin's argument in the interview was essentially that sports team owners have been privitizing public funds by forcing municipalities to use public funds to build and maintain stadiums but then keeping all the profits for themselves. Zurin believes that we must force the owners (and municipalities need public support to do this) to play ball with the cities they have been happy to shakedown for the past few decades.

Part of the public support is for the public to start being vocal about not wanting the team under any conditions. At some point, the team is not worth it. I think we've hit that point in Hamilton.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 27, 2010 at 10:49:50

I agree any team is not worth it if the team and their actions are not bringing enough benefit to a community to justify public expenditures for a stadium or arena or whatever that the team would use.

Let's face it, no one is a community needs facilities for professional sports, music, dance, theatre you name it, we will all be fine without these entertainment options. They are what I call luxuries and while nice and serve leisure time interests, are not necessary whatsoever.

The key here is professional since it is higher-end professionals that more or less require facilties like a Copps, Hamilton Place, stadium etc.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 27, 2010 at 13:12:48

Is there anyone here who couldn't come up with a better use for $50 million dollars than a stadium?

Even when Mr Smith (inevitably) shows up and suggests we just give it all back as a giant tax break, I'm gonna have to vote for it. It's a hundred bucks from every man, woman and child in the supercity.

My advice would be to start cleaning up brownfield sites and turning them over to community groups with long-term leases based on performance. As the price of oil rises, development is inevitably going to have to return to our inner cities. This opportunity will not last forever. We need parks (and not just boring 6-trees and a swingset parks), community gardens, sporting facilities for communities, housing, studio space, workshops and schools. And we need all of them more than we need stadiums.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 27, 2010 at 15:55:56

Undustrial is right. Remediate the brownfield sites to create sites that will attract investors either in the real estate business or community parks/gardens etc...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 27, 2010 at 17:44:31

The Future Fund Board has passed McHattie's 3 part motion:

A) That the $60-million dollars is a loan (The board had previously stated it would be a loan, but council overruled it and changed it to a grant. The board reiterated it should be a loan.) B) That the preferred site is the West Harbour C) IF Council votes for a East Mountain site - then NO Future Fund money be used for the site.

Two citizen members, Clark, and Eisenberger were opposed, Eisenberger apparently saying that he didn't want to prejudice the ongoing negotiations.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 10:33:35

Thanks for the San Diego article Kiely. It's interesting to see that the NFL has similar problems as the CFL when it comes to stadium building. Its just scaled up an order of magnitude on their side, meaning they are talking about 500 million in loans compared to our 50ish million. The most important point raised in the article is that city officials are undermatched when it comes to dealing with the negotiation tactics of pro sports. When you talk to intelligent people in this city who may not be following the issue that closely, their gut response is to blame city hall. I've always believed that that is an over simplification.

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