CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon endorses the East Mountain stadium location, offers 'the prospect' of multiple Grey Cups, and threatens 'the end of the CFL in Hamilton' if Council insists on a West Harbour location.
By RTH Staff
Published July 30, 2010
In a letter sent today to City Council and Pan Am Hostco, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon endorses the proposed East Mountain stadium location and threatens that Hamilton will lose the Tiger-Cats if Council insists on putting the Pan Am stadium in the West Harbour.
Cohon writes that Bob Young, the Ticats owner, has "invested heavily in the future of the franchise", and offers "the prospect of hosting the national jewel that is the Grey Cup multiple times in the years ahead, if and when a suitable stadium in the right location is available."
He notes that the economic value of hosting a Grey Cup was $80.1 million in 2007, of which host city Toronto enjoyed $52.9 million, and could increase to $100 million in 2012. He adds that the CFL Board "now insists on at least 45,000 seats at the Grey Cup venue" and that the West Harbour location could not accommodate this many seats. He also writes that "ease of access is vitally important" to the CFL, and that "access to the West Harbour is terribly limited" for fans, media, staff, and volunteers.
In contrast, "early indications are the East Mountain location, with its proximity to major roadways, and relatively open surroundings, appears to be a prime location for Grey Cups."
Cohon also threatens that the selection of the West Harbour "will be the end of the CFL in Hamilton" as the CFL Board would not be willing to grant the city another franchise "should this issue force the Tiger-Cats to leave the city". Cohon insists, "our Board of Governors' support for Mr. Young is unequivocal."
Finally, Cohon argues that the city can have both a successful venue and economic development by choosing the East Mountain location and gaining the economic benefits of "multiple Grey Cups". He adds, "By choosing the East Mountain site, you will acknowledge that great cities are defined not only by infrastructure that works, but by symbols that matter, including sports teams with tradition and stature, and big events that stand out, like our beloved Grey Cup."
Here follows the full text of the letter:
July 30, 2010
Mayor Eisenberger, City of Hamilton
Members of Council
Pan Am Host Corporation
Michael Fenn, Facilitator
Dear Mayor, Members of Council, Members of Pan Am Host Corporation and Mr. Fenn:
First of all, on behalf of the Canadian Football League's Board of Governors, our teams and most importantly our fans, thank you for your attention to this important issue. While your roles vary, you all share a commitment to the importance of public service, and that commitment deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated, for it often represents a great deal of hard work and personal sacrifice.
I am writing in support of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their endorsement of the East Mountain location for a new Pan Am Games stadium in the city of Hamilton. Rather than repeat the points Bob Young and his team have made throughout the process, I will simply state here that the success, and even survival, of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is at stake, and we do not want to envision for even a moment a CFL without one of our oldest and proudest teams.
Mr. Young has invested heavily in the future of the franchise, and his goal in this matter is simple, straight forward, and heartfelt: he wants the Tiger-Cats to succeed, for the long term and in the best interests of the city of Hamilton and the people who proudly call it home, and he is steadfast in his belief the team can only achieve financial viability playing in a proper venue in a viable location, and the East Mountain site is one such location, while the West Harbour is not.
For my part as Commissioner of our league, I want to focus here on a significant opportunity for the city of Hamilton beyond the Pan Am Games: the prospect of hosting the national jewel that is the Grey Cup multiple times in the years ahead, if and when a suitable stadium in the right location is available.
The Grey Cup game, of course, is our national championship. But the event, and the week-long festival that surrounds it, has become much more. It's a true Canadian icon, a symbol of Canadians' desire and ability to come together, no matter what part of the country, or what part of the world, we hail from. And because of that, it is now a significant cultural event, a major tourism opportunity, a chance to project a positive image to millions of people, and a powerful source of economic stimulus for the host city.
It brings tens of thousands of visitors to town. It fills bars and restaurants and hotels and streets and, frankly, coffers. It shines a positive light on its host. If it were a convention, cities would fight over it tooth and nail. But it's much more.
Consider the following:
An economic impact study of the 2007 Grey Cup in Toronto, done for the city of Toronto by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, concluded that event generated more than $80.1 million in total economic activity throughout the province, with $52.9 million occurring in Toronto .
That number does not take into account the value of national exposure for the host city, as hundreds of national media attend the Grey Cup, and millions of Canadians watch it on television. (The 2009 game was the most watched television event in Canada last year, with 14 million viewers, or 43 per cent of the Canadian population)
It is estimated that, as the Grey Cup continues to grow through 2012, our one hundredth Grey Cup, its economic value will reach the $100 million mark.
The Canadian Football League very much wants to bring the Grey Cup back to Hamilton. The Grey Cup belongs in Hamilton, the source of so much lore, history and pride for all of us who love our game and what it has come to mean to our country. But for too long, we have not been able to bring the Grey Cup to Hamilton because of the lack of a suitable stadium to host what has become a huge event. And it would be virtually impossible to host a Grey Cup to the current CFL standard at the proposed West Harbour stadium location.
Our Board now insists on at least 45,000 seats at the Grey Cup venue, and the West Harbour location, bordered by water and an embankment, is extremely problematic when it comes to accommodating approximately 20.000 good, albeit temporary, seats. Ease of access is vitally important to us, not just for thousands of fans, and the influx of media, staff and volunteers, but also for security and safety reasons, and we are concerned that access to the West Harbour location is terribly limited. The event extends well beyond the game field itself and the area surrounding the stadium needs to accommodate concession, concerts, sponsor activations and several trailers, television trucks and other large vehicles, but the West Harbour location would be extremely restrictive in this regard.
To put it in a nutshell: If the Tiger-Cats' experts know the West Harbour would not work for a regular season game accommodating 25,000 fans and the normal amount of supporting activities for four or five hours, how could it possibly accommodate 45.000 or 50,000 fans and an extraordinary amount of supporting activities and infrastructure over a time period spanning an entire day and evening?
On the other hand, early indications are the East Mountain location, with its proximity to major roadways, and relatively open surroundings, appears to be a prime location for Grey Cups.
There is a related point that I want to stress: I understand that there are those who assume that, if the Tiger-Cats under Bob Young's ownership were to leave the city of Hamilton for any reason, our league would be certain to grant the city another franchise by way of expansion. I do not support that type of thinking nor would our Board. In fact, I am deeply concerned that, should this issue force the Tiger-Cats to leave the city, it will be the end of the CFL in Hamilton. So our emphasis is on a resolution of this issue that works for the Tiger-Cats under Bob Young. He has been a tremendous owner and valued league governor. He has invested heavily in the team and, I might add, the city. And our Board of Governors' support for Mr. Young is unequivocal.
It has been suggested that the decision facing Council is about more than football; that this is also about the city's economic development. I couldn't agree more. But you don't have to choose one or the other. By choosing what is best for the future of the Tiger-Cats, you will also be seizing a major economic opportunity in the form of multiple Grey Cups, while reserving the West Harbour for other opportunities, be they commercial or residential ones that are more suited to that particular site. By choosing the East Mountain site, you will acknowledge that great cities are defined not only by infrastructure that works, but by symbols that matter, including sports teams with tradition and stature, and big events that stand out, like our beloved Grey Cup.
We in the CFL believe in building stronger communities. That's why our teams and players make thousands of public appearances in support of social, charitable and civic causes. That's why our owners, including Bob Young and another Hamilton native, David Braley, have well earned reputations as city builders. We very much want to see Hamilton grow and prosper. And we want the Grey Cup to help fuel that success, to celebrate that success, and to communicate that success to other Canadians.
All we need is a proper stadium in the right location, a viable location, and a rare opportunity to build such a venue is before you: we urge you to grasp it.
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