I was going to wait until we find out if we are awarded the 2015 Pan Am Games to post this, but given the hot debate taking place around town on possible locations for a new stadium, I thought it best to bring this issue forward and outline a few important considerations.
Let me start by saying that I already have a favoured location for a new stadium in Hamilton - downtown.
Airport lands or some industrial park alongside the Linc are bad ideas that smack of 1970s thinking. I feel the need to bring this issue up now because we all know that Hamilton loves to made decisions as though it's 1970 all over again.
Here are my three top priorities for a new stadium:
A multi-purpose stadium will bring hundreds of thousands of people to its doorstep each year. Do we want them all arriving in their cars in the middle of nowhere, heading to the game, and then driving back home? Or do we want them pumping money into local businesses and restaurants before and after their event?
Think of the location of the Skydome or various ballparks in other cities, or even our own Copps Coliseum - built in the 1980s, downtown. Doesn't do much for my arguement on 1970s thinking, but remember, the entire city had downtown as a real priority back then. Today, most people don't.
The spinoff effects on the local economy are potentially huge with a stadium located downtown. As the global economy begins to change and in some cases shrink, we'll see a higher priority put on supporting one's local city economy. What better way to do that then to bring human beings with money to our city streets?
Transportation access to places like Fenway and Yankee Stadium is so much superior than to a stadium like Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. If we're going to get light rail transit in this city, let's make sure that our stadium is located near the route.
Whenever I see a stadium located outside of a city in the middle of nowhere I can't help but think that the city must be a bit of a dive. Cities that care about themselves and their downtowns always seem to be the ones building new stadiums downtown - like PNC Park in Pittsburgh or the Bell Centre in Montreal. You want visitors coming to the heart of the city.
Our society lives in multi-acre parking lots in the suburbs. People want the excitement of walking a city's streets to a big event and popping into Hess Village afterwards or a pub on Augusta.
This of course, ties into image. Those of us who live here know what a gem Hamilton is. We also know that word is slowly spreading as more and more people move here from Toronto. Imagine a stadium in the Bay/Barton area with amazing views of the west harbour, downtown skyline and escarpment.
We spent much of the '70s and '80s destroying this city for no good reason, so why don't we finally put some of our empty land downtown to good use? Has anyone been to John and Rebecca lately? Only if you needed to park your car, probably.
Acres of empty land are sitting there being used as $3.00-per-day parking.
Last year, Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina had a brilliant idea - the Sir John A MacDonald site. Think of Qwest Field in Seattle with it's small footprint and tall grandstands. The high school could be moved to any number of empty lots in the area and we could have our new stadium across the street from Copps. It's a five minute walk from there to James North or Hess Village.
I realize that a segment of the population will want the stadium located in Binbrook because they can zip through the Horton's drive-thru on the way to the game and have a massive parking lot around the stadium, but let's have this discussion with the best interest of Hamilton at the front of our minds.
The steel industry appears to be dwindling away. The North American economy is changing before our eyes. The days of wasting resources and capital are long gone. We can only make this decision once, let's get it right.
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