It's time to bring this debate back to the original Pan Am Games opportunity - the chance to realize many of our city goals so that years from now, looking back, we will not be talking about the potential of Hamilton, we will be living it.
By Paul Shaker
Published December 31, 2010
With all the recent Aldershot discussion, the Pan Am debate has moved even further from its promising start as a once-in-a-generation chance to accelerate waterfront redevelopment in Hamilton.
This whole saga started out as a great civic opportunity that would advance multiple city objectives years ahead of schedule, with the advantage of senior government money. I'd like to suggest that when you strip away the distractions and focus on the facts, this can still be the case.
Further, no tortured discussions and council votes need take place as the solution has already been approved, accepted by HostCo, budgeted for, and land assembled.
Quite simply, City Council has already debated, studied, and approved the West Harbour location and HostCo has accepted that location for a 5000 seat stadium. The staff report from August 31 confirmed this and offered a solution for growth in the future:
Staff met twice with Host Corporation, on August 12 and 19 to discuss the Principles and Guidelines. Host Corporation indicated that should a sustainable plan not be developed for a 15,000 seat stadium on the West Harbour, that Host Corporation would be open to working with Hamilton on a "scaleable" stadium.
Under this scenario, a large stadium would be designed, including foundation and servicing, but that a smaller stadium, perhaps with 5,000 permanent, and 5-10,000 temporary seats would be constructed for the Pan Am Games. Host Corporation indicated that for Games purposes, a stadium comprising 15,000 permanent seats was not required. With the larger stadium design in hand, and the foundation and services built, a larger stadium (25,000 plus seats) could be built in stages at a future date(s).
In this light I propose a scaleable new stadium on a redeveloped West Harbourfront.
With all the heresay flying around, what we know for sure is that:
The Ticats have said repeatedly that they are not playing at Ivor Wynne after their lease expires in a couple of years.
With no major tenant, there is no need to pump $20 million into Ivor Wynne to maintain a 28,000 seat stadium.
Hamilton City Council has approved the West Harbour as a site for a new civic stadium.
HostCo has accepted that location and proposed a scaleable model to accommodate short-term Pan Am needs and long-term future expansion.
A smaller stadium will cost less for Hamilton taxpayers, while still taking advantage of the land acquisition that has already taken place and cleaning up three to four square blocks of toxic brownfield space, much of which would be prime for development after the games.
The West Harbour site still has the potential for a games node with a stadium, velodrome, and a GO/VIA station that will be in place in time for the games.
As mentioned before, this solution does not require any more panicked debates. The decision has already been made and accepted by HostCo, backed up with study after study and hundreds of hours of City staff time and energy.
All that would be required is a phone call from the Mayor or City Manager to Ian Troop, reaffirming this decision of Council, and a stadium for Hamilton would be confirmed before the February 1 deadline, allowing us to move on as a community.
The Ticats will continue to play at Ivor Wynne under their current lease and will have to make some decisions about their future. If they wish to participate in an expanded West Harbour stadium, the scaleable design could accommodate this. Alternatively, they can look elsewhere for a home as they have already done.
The glaring reality is that their involvement in the current stadium planning process has taking us so far off course that it is better to forge ahead without them than fumble the whole opportunity for Hamilton.
Sports infrastructure was never an end in and of itself - it was always a means to an end. Just as other cities the world over have used international sports competitions to retool parts of their city, so too is the underlying opportunity for Hamilton.
Moving forward, we should bring this debate back to that opportunity the Pan Am Games afforded us to begin with - the chance to realize many city goals we set for ourselves so that years from now, looking back, we will not be talking about the potential of Hamilton, we will be living it.
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