Bratina: City Building Not Served By Stadiums

By RTH Staff
Published July 15, 2010

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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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2010 at 17:19:44

It's really too bad Young didn't make his vocal ultimatums earlier... perhaps one of those far better sites would've gotten the consideration they deserved. I have to say, they sound much, much better than the harbour west. To me, the biggest flaw with Ivor Wynne has always been the residential location, and that's one that the harbour west really doesn't solve. A stadium is surrounded by houses is a blight for the houses and a waste of the stadium.

I'm curious, is visibility that big an issue with a stadium? That seems to be a big thing people touting the ORC location point to: the stadium is visible from the expressway. Is that really important?

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2010-07-15 16:20:55

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2010 at 18:26:15

"A stadium is surrounded by houses is a blight for the houses and a waste of the stadium."

I've never understood this logic. Can someone explain it to me?

Or better yet, talk a little about why the best community stadiums are just that, parts of their communities?

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 18:40:31

I live in Ward 2 and am much in favour of the West Harbour site. It is easy for Bratina to talk about some magical development that could occur in the West Harbour lands, but having been a Hamiltonian for quite a while I also know that there is plenty of empty lots in Ward 2 that could also become magical high value residential communities playing plenty of taxes. Sadly, that is not happening.

I find it pathetic that my ward councillor would rather a derelict brown field sit empty for who knows how long, rather than redevelop it into a premier destination in our ward. Sometimes I wonder if the councillor doesn't represent ward 2, but rather the councillor for the select few that live north of the CN tracks.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 19:25:32

mystoneycreek, I'm a huge TigerCat fan and season ticket holder and love going to the stadium. But it's easy why I don't want my house near a stadium - people pissing on my lawn after games and being noisey at night coming out of the stadium when I want my neighbourhood quiet.

It's actually very simple really, in my mind a stadium devalues my house if it's near the stadium.

Also define community. I live on the east mountain and we have a community there. Is a community only in a downtown of a city or nearby? That's a very narrow view of what community means to me. My sister lives in Etobicoke and rarely goes to downtown Toronto, she does her shopping in Etobicoke and raised her kids there and goes to church there. She is happy with her community, but it's not downtown.

Stadiums should not be put in areas right near a residential area IMHO. As I say, it's pretty simple for this home owner who has witnessed fan behaviour from stadiums for many, many years.

Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-07-15 18:35:36

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 21:51:39

It's funny how Bob conveniently ignores the fact that Locke St. is only a block from the old HAAA grounds. Locke St. has been a thriving commercial area for 100 years. It only declined after the Tigers stopped using the HAAA grounds. It has since revived somewhat but nothing near what is was up until the 50's.

The area also had what passed for rapid transit in those days, a dedicated streetcar right of way only a few of blocks away.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 22:07:15

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

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 22:57:05


If that is the case then why are condo's in downtown Toronto or Vancouver going for a half million dollars and up. The suburbs are not for everybody. More and more people are realizing the benefits of living in a densely populated urban area. The way of the future whether you like it or not is for intensification of urban areas rather than the sprawl that we have witnessed for the last 30 years. Cities develope in cycles, they sprawl then they intensify. We are currently moving into an intensification cycle. Your thinking is behind the times.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 07:10:25

Behind the times or not, young families are still buying new houses in the suburbs in many cities including Hamilton. As the baby boomers get older yes there will be more condos and that as they become empty nesters. But larger cities have a different culture than smaller cities like Hamilton, downtowns in Montreal, Vancouver, Montreal are happening places and living downtown in these cities is cool. Not really in cities like Hamilton where there isn't a lot to do and not a lot of people after dark, people don't feel as safe in these smaller cities.

Hamilton would be best served to be different and make the WH more green, turn it into a mini conservation area with some residential uses nearby or a waterslide etc. No need for a stadium at such a precious site.

Stadiums should go on more derelict type land that will most likely never be used for residential, like the Lafarge site in Hamilton or just across the street there where the TigerCats mentioned. It will be a shame if the stadium is built at the WH, a real shame IMHO.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2010 at 07:46:05

"Stadiums should go on more derelict type land that will most likely never be used for residential, like the Lafarge site in Hamilton or just across the street there where the TigerCats mentioned."

I've dealt with this on my blog, in addition to commenting elsewhere: for me, the process of where a stadium should go is the first question that needs to be answered, even before the specifics of the facility are ironed out. So the question the resultant flow-chart stems from is:

Urban or sub-urban?

It can't be both.

The former is aligned with a public transit approach to quality of Life and everything it connotes, the latter with a car-centric world and all its attachments. So on the one side, you have Editor Ryan and those aligned with the 'My City, My Future' effort, and on the other, Bob Young and commenters such as HamiltonFan.

To me, much of the discussion here, and elsewhere, comes down to these opposing approaches...and they define the brouhaha and can -to a large extent- explain why things have gotten so messy.

Am I simplifying things a tad too much here...?

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 08:16:08

OMG, I am in the camp of my city, my future all the way my man for pete sakes. Which means I am looking at WH as a people place where people can live and play. No stadium there, the land is too precious. Build it where there is likely to not be a residential area built or on old industrial land. It's a football stadium that won't be used a lot during the year, why build it on potentially a min conservation area combined with housing near the downtown, what a waste.

Building it at WH is just a waste and not only that, precious waste of a real resource of land there that is ripe for the taking for housing and bringing people to the area and downtown on a permanent sustainable basis for future growth.

But we all have our own views on this. But really, we should be thinking of the needs somewhat of what the major tenant of the stadium who happens to be an intelligent man. To dismiss these needs is crazy. I agree cleanup the WH site but let's do it the right way because of it's location near the downtown and encourage people to live there and spend money all year round there. It's called housing and retail. Isn't that city building just as much as putting a football stadium there? I would think so.

Comment edited by HamiltonFan on 2010-07-16 07:18:53

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 08:19:19

West Harbour won't be a residential location. Remediating for a stadium is relatively cheap, remediating it for housing would be way more expensive. Then you'd have condos overlooking.......the rail yard.

But a pretty good location for a stadium - if we have to build one that is.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2010 at 09:05:32


The West Harbor could be used for a lot of things, but I'm quite confident in saying that the waterfront has _enough_ parkland.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2010 at 11:24:31

Whenever the rest of Council is playing golf, Bob Bratina always wants to play tennis. Focus Bob! Your use of historical information is baffling. For me, it makes the argument FOR the west harbour.

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By DowntownProud (anonymous) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 13:58:33

That's our Bob, long after Council has made a decision he rattles on about some other option, whether it was even on the table or not. Even his hindsight is myopic.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 14:15:11

Not really in cities like Hamilton where there isn't a lot to do - HamiltonFan

Sorry but this is BS. This is a negative Hamilton mindset thing.

There is an event almost every weekend of the summer in Gage Park. There are nice restaurants and bars to go to. There are museums, galleries, theatres, unique shops, cultural events, major concerts, the market, the central library, etc...

Some people need to get out and enjoy our city and stop whinging.

Then you'd have condos overlooking.......the rail yard. - nobrainer

You mean like the ones in downtown Toronto around the CN tower?

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-07-16 13:15:33

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By DBC (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 14:51:59

I live in Ward 2 and can't wait to NOT vote for Mr. Bratina.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 16, 2010 at 15:21:57

Remediating for a stadium is relatively cheap, remediating it for housing would be way more expensive.

Plus unlike the stadium, there would be no public money for cleanup for condos, and anyone thinking developers have deep enough pockets to do the kind of remediation required for housing on their own, is dreaming in technicolour. Kind of like imagining the school board would have gone along with moving SJAM wholesale to a nice new building somewhere, in time to start construction for the games, and not simply closed the school altogether. I support a downtown stadium, but not at the expense of a valuable high school like SJAM.

Comment edited by highwater on 2010-07-16 14:23:20

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2010 at 16:07:11

Definations of community are all the same really in my eyes. Just different in what type of community setting you like or want to live in.

I think you know my view of what makes a great stadium locaiton, Mystoneycreek, and yes the EM locaiton is in a community or close to a very beautiful one I might add. One which I could see myself re-locating to one day. But that Big Box nightmare, I think that is not a commuity I want to live by. Centre Mall is bad enough even though it looks so much cleaner. They made a mistake not keeping that area a mall. At least they listened a litte bit and built a food pavillion.

As for stadiums like IWS amongst the community. Now I love this seeting, living by it, and I love all this life and excitement and accessibilty to so much being all around me. Perhaps the problem lies in buying a house when you are 20 and living your entire life there and expecting the area to change as you get old and grumpy and don't like loud noises and too much excitement anymore.

When I am 80, I might not like living by a stadium anymore but am I going to focus my energy to get them to quite down and rid the area of the stadium, or move to somewhere that is more fitting to my changing lifestyle.

West Harbor or current site (although I know the latter isn't on the table), I think once a site is chosen, we need to build it and brand the area to be what it is going to be now and forever, a stadium area.

Perhaps IWS would work better if there wasn't constant talks about it moving. Should I buy, sell, maybe the property will be worth something if the stadium moves? We could just say "it's staying". Like it or move away. This is a football/sporting area/community and it's here to stay and we are going to make it work as such.

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By Lettie (registered) | Posted July 17, 2010 at 10:11:19

Would somebody please run against Bob Bratina in the next election and win?

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By Centrist (registered) | Posted July 17, 2010 at 15:39:00

Thank you Bob Bratina for being a voice of reason.

Why anyone is spending time and energy thinking this stadium will do anything to revitalize downtown is beyond me. Did Jackson Square and the Superblock revitalize downtown? Did Copps Coliseum? No.

Hamilton desperately needs to move away from the "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" mentality. This hasn't worked for us over the last 30+ years, and it won't work with this new stadium.

Council needs to focus on improving public transportation, limiting sprawl, and enticing more people to LIVE downtown. However, I imagine market forces will likely coax more people to move downtown in the coming years anyway. The location of a sports stadium will have nothing to do with the trend towards recentralization in cities.

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By ceesvang (registered) | Posted July 17, 2010 at 15:44:47

Hey Bob I will vote for you and so will many of my neighbours. Stop this ridiculous plan to plunk a stadium at the west harbour site, setting sail anyone???

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 17, 2010 at 17:25:07

Centrist >> Council needs to focus on improving public transportation, limiting sprawl, and enticing more people to LIVE downtown.

Is it a coincidence that the areas of the city with the highest tax rates and highest level of public transit/spending are also the worst in terms of property values and income levels? Main and King have buses running all day and yet both streets are run down. Conversely, Dundas and Ancaster have less transit/government spending and yet both have healthier downtown's and higher incomes.

I believe it would be far better to reduce government spending and tax rates and let Hamilton taxpayers keep and spend more of their wealth, the way residents of Ancaster and Dundas get to. It's not as if the people who live in Dundas/Ancaster have terrible communities because of a lower level of government spending, quite likely the opposite is true.

They have less government spending, but this is made up for by more spending by individuals and businesses. This was the way Hamilton's economy developed in the first place, dominated by private sector investment and consumption. Our own history tells us what we need to do, get back to basics and let the market system, which rewards winners and punishes failure to distribute capital. Otherwise, the city will continue to waste money on things that never produce a profit, but that only lead to higher taxes and less income for residents.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2010 at 21:20:54

A. Smith

Is it a coincidence that the areas of the city with the highest tax rates and highest level of public transit/spending are also the worst in terms of property values and income levels? Main and King have buses running all day and yet both streets are run down. Conversely, Dundas and Ancaster have less transit/government spending and yet both have healthier downtown's and higher incomes.

I'll see your Dundas/Ancaster and raise you Westdale: awful taxation, great transit, and a wonderful place with a healthy shopping district (between that of Dundas - super - and Ancaster - vestigial).

Once might argue that Westdale's economy is artificial, what with McMaster next to it. But then, what's natural about Ancaster anymore? It's a bedroom community now.

And as for King being run down - parts of King are doing very well. Oddly, one might think, the very parts of King which are narrowest: Wellington to John. I dare say that this not coincidence: people don't like to shop on expressways.

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-07-17 20:26:54

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By sselway (registered) | Posted July 20, 2010 at 17:10:39

The Convention Centre, Hamilton Place, Copps Coliseum, Jackson Square have done little to rejuvenate downtown. We paved the Red Hill Valley with an expressway. We renovated City Hall exterior with concrete blocks. We brought box store shopping to the Centre Mall. Building a stadium at the West Harbour is a waste and will be done exactly the same way!

What we need is people living downtown and in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Setting Sail, the secondary plan is exactly right: strengthen existing neighbourhoods -support JAMES street as the area's main commercial - encourage new commercial that cater to the neighborhoods - enhance amenities - augment existing parkland - generally AVOID expropriation of residential and commercial properties - etc. (page 6)

Putting a stadium-precinct development at the West Harbour is a huge mistake. By supporting the West harbour site, you are asking for more of what we got already, another huge empty structure, concrete exterior, widened roads, more parking lots, and more people moving out as we have had schools closed, a library closed, drug store closed already.

What we need is people living downtown, shopping downtown, eating downtown because they LIVE downtown. The downtown cannot survive solely on people who VISIT downtown.

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