Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina emailed this response to today's message to Council from the Our City, Our Future campaign:
City building is not served to any great extent by stadiums and arenas. Historically they are added on as required to accommodate community needs. The first football stadium in Hamilton was the H.A.A.A. Grounds on Charlton near Queen, home of the Tigers for almost 80 years.
It was nestled in a residential area and continues to serve as a local park to this day, with few residents realizing that 7 Grey Cup games were played there, including the classic 1935 match-up between that saw Winnipeg star Fritzie Hanzen run wild in the mud and snow in the Blue Bomber Victory over Hamilton. From 1872 to 1949 the H.A.A.A. grounds were the home field of the Tigers, and I'm not aware of any commercial development that was generated beyond game day.
The same can be said for Ivor Wynne (Civic) stadium, with no meaningful new development over its 80 year history.
Copps Coliseum has generated almost nothing in terms of animating the streets and encouraging new commercial development. Adjacent to the area is a tavern, the Salvation Army shelter and half-way house, and a church.
City Building is a function of an attractive residential environment, which was the focus and intent of "Setting Sail". The West Harbour stadium is a deviation from this plan requiring special approval. Significant opposition comes from residents whose neighbourhood theoretically would be "improved" according to stadium proponents.
The problem we have today lies with the faulty site selection process which quickly discounted genuine "Downtown" locations which would have some positive effect to those business districts. One was the land area east of John Street between King William and Wilson.
Another was the Sir John A. MacDonald high school site at York and Bay. The 800 students deserve a proper building in a residential setting next to green space which is available one block north of York at Bay and Scheaffe on City property adjacent to Central Park. A stadium on the school site would be a Downtown Gateway feature, with easy access and parking.
These sites were dismissed out of hand, suggesting to me that the West Harbour lands had been targetted all along, despite the fact that study after study rejected the notion of stadiums or arenas in the location.
The Barton-Tiffany lands have huge potential for residential and parkland development, and revenue generation through taxation. In truth a stadium is a large intrusive concrete grandstand which sits empty most of the year. A residential neighbourhood lives, breathes and pulses unremittingly. The H.A.A.A. grounds augmented its neighbourhood through the years accomodating football, cricket, soccer, track and field, and skating in the winter. 138 years later it is still the recreational hub for residents.
So what is the answer? City-owned lands with good highway and transit access, and politicians with an open mind.
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