Letter: Pan Am Facilities a 'Terrible Deal' for Hamilton

By Letter to the Editor
Published August 30, 2011

Re: Councillors to Consider Velodrome Proposal, Change to Pan Am Stadium Plan

This is a terrible deal for the citizens of Hamilton. Neither of these projects will generate tax revenues to compensate for the number of tax dollars that will be required to build them.

It's clear now that Hamilton should never have become involved in the Pan Am process. City council should write off the money that's been spent on planning and tell Toronto 2015 to find other communities willing to host their events before the inevitable construction overruns begin.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a private company. As such, their financial records are not available to be scrutinized. They have a financial plan, to which we are not privy, and a bottom line. The city's preferred stadium site did not align with their plan and they applied pressure on the city, even threatening to move their business to another municipality, until Council agreed to abandon their site, chosen in the interest of the city and its citizens, and renovate Ivor Wynne.

This most recent development gives us some insight into the Ticats' plan. They've concluded that, aside from Labour Day, 30K fans are never going to attend games. They are adopting the model of the Montreal Alouettes: a smaller stadium with more amenities to "improve the game-day experience" for which they can charge higher prices.

Tens of millions of dollars will be spent to rebuild the north stands so that the individual seats will have backs. There will be more washrooms and more accessible concessions to sell expensive food and $8 beer. Ticket prices will continue to escalate until the team, whoever owns it, is able to make money.

On average 2.2% of the current population of this municipality attend any Ticat game. Very few people, regardless of how many identify themselves as fans and follow the games on TV, actually patronize this business. The taxes the Ticats pay the city will never approach the investment the city is making in the stadium.

The Pan Am Games will be over in a couple of weeks. The stadium will belong to the municipality but can't possibly be used often enough or by enough spectators to justify even a small fraction of the money that's being spent.

Similarly with the velodrome, Mohawk is looking for a deal that will benefit their institution. Most of the funds Mohawk is committing will come from a user fee on students.

The velodrome be combined with sports facilities for Mohawk students. Virtually nobody from the community will ever see the inside of it and, unless they are Mohawk students, they won't be eligible to use it.

Not only that, but we have no idea what costs will be associated with the land swap with St. Joseph's Hospital that will allow Mohawk to build on what is now a parking lot.

Our city must invest in progressive projects which will provide services to the citizens of Hamilton and generate private development which will contribute to the tax base.

David Fawcett
Gilbert Neighbourhood, Hamilton

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 16:51:06

It's clear now that Hamilton should never have become involved in the Pan Am process.

That should have been clear all aong. These types of events line the pockets of an elite few while saddling the citizens of a city with undue finanical burden. They are more about politics and political schemes than anything else and it has always been so.

The Games became a political tool used by city-states to assert dominance over their rivals. - from the Wikipedia entry "Ancient Olympic Games"

People need to learn to identify polished turds.

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By NA (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 18:04:02

By your logic then, the Vancouver Olympics (with an estimated cost of $5-6 billion) was a waste of tax payer money (as with all major sporting events, it lost money). I would suggest that most-if-not-all Canadians would disagree with the notion that the Vancouver Olympics were a waste of money.

Although I admit that more Canadians followed the Olympics than follow the CFL (or even the NHL for that matter!) the Grey Cup is the single most-watched sporting event in Canada (6.5 million +). This suggests to me that your math on the 2.2% of the population following the TiCats may be incorrect.

I'm looking forward to the new stadium - it will promote the City nationally, bring stability to the football team, and promote athletics in the City. In a society that is systematically becoming more and more Americanized (in terms of expanding waist lines and a fading Canadian culture) the CFL and it's teams are proud part of our heritage which is worth of support. Go to a game - you just may enjoy yourself! ;)

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By Wagdog (anonymous) | Posted September 13, 2011 at 05:56:29 in reply to Comment 68727

Oh come on now, let's not pretend there is anything inherently Canadian about watching a bunch of American players who can't get into the NFL play with slightly different rules. Or pretend that viewership of the Grey Cup on TV has any relevance to the topic at hand. The letter writer is correct in stating that it's actually a very small minority of people who support this business financially through ticket sales. And just because "most-if-not-all Canadians would disagree with the notion that the Vancouver Olympics were a waste of money" doesn't mean they weren't actually a colossal waste of money.

Pan Am was a mistake. Not just for Hamilton but for the province as a whole. We could take the same money and make investments in cities that have a quantifiable return, rather than sinking money into failing private sports teams on a weak notion that we're doing something to protect our nebulous Canadian identity in doing so.

A bored tech millionaire's mid-life crisis ended up costing our city dearly in time, money and wasted energy. If we're truly interested in City building, we should have put the same amount of time and resources into mitigating the findings of Code Red, rather than getting our dicks hard over another carrot-on-a-stick silver bullet "THIS IS GOING TO FIX HAMILTON" kind of project. Every Hamiltonian should know better by now!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 17:46:02 in reply to Comment 68727

Hamilton is not Vancouver. SURPRISE!!

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By theOther (registered) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 10:53:13 in reply to Comment 68727

NA, maybe you can clarify how replacing Brian Timmis field (one of the most heavily-used facilities for competitive amateur sport) with a parking lot is going to "promote athletics" in the Hamilton community.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 19:15:14

One important difference with what Vancouver did for the Olympics, however, is that most of the facilities were destined to be multi-use and public after the games - community centers, public rinks, etc. - the Richmond Oval being the most obvious example.

By comparison, Hamilton's stadium in particular is a single-use facility whose post-Pan Am profits will benefit a single, private company almost exclusively. Moreover, both the (proposed) velodrome and stadium are located in relatively peripheral areas. The public "legacy" potential for these facilities is dubious at best.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 23:31:23 in reply to Comment 68732

Soccer? Mohawk? Probably more cycling than we can imagine actually, and if it draws the Canadian cycling teams, then, well, good deal in my books and I'm not a cyclist.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 19:23:42

I should add that this is where Regina's stadium proposal truly shines. Not only is it centrally located, its roof also enables it to be profitable as a multi-use facility for hosting exhibitions, concerts, etc. These factors are thought to be instrumental in attracting private investment dollars as well (finances are not yet finalized), as opposed to Hamilton's exclusively taxpayer-funded facility.

While I think these reservations come a little late in the game to alter the proposed stadium location or design, it does suggest that it might make sense from a financial perspective to, as the letter suggests, cancel Hamilton's participation in the games altogether, and invest some fiscally-responsible creative thinking in designing facilities that make sense from a public taxpayer's perspective. At any rate, if Regina's ambitions suggest anything, they suggest that new stadiums are not necessarily contingent on hosting major international events.

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By davidsfawcett (registered) - website | Posted August 30, 2011 at 19:35:09

Thank you for your reasonably presented arguments.

Neither the BC Lions nor the Canucks play in facilities which were constructed for the Vancouver Olympics, so the situation there has little to do with ours. I'll leave the "bread and circuses" argument against big international games to another poster.

2.2% is 505 000 (the population on the highway sign) divided by 23 000, the published average Ticat attendance for the last 20 years or so. As I stated in the letter, "following" the team by watching games on TV doesn't have any bearing on the economics of financing a stadium. Many Canadian sports fans follow teams in the States and have never been anywhere near a live game.

I doubt the construction of a new stadium (especially one in same place) will do anything to promote the city. As for the stability of the team, that rests with the ownership executing their business plan, but it should not be on the backs of taxpayers.

I agree completely that we should do all we can to promote Canadian institutions in sport and the arts, providing career opportunities for young Canadians. I also agree that we must promote fitness in our city but spending millions of dollars to build grandstands with seat backs is an inefficient use of funds ;)

I was a Ticat season ticket holder for many years. 4 years ago I did not renew my tickets when the price increased by 40% for the next season.

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 21:10:22 in reply to Comment 68735

BC Place stadium is undergoing a 500 million + renovation as we speak. Well after the closing ceremonies. Primary tenants are the BC Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps. The renovation and temporary stadium provided for the BC Lions are being bank rolled by the provincial gov't via PavCo. Even in one of the largest markets in our country that can apparently afford to do it on its own ( ), it can't.

I believe the Tiger-Cats messed up in a gigantic fashion earlier this year. We are not getting what we wanted, but we are getting what is needed.

Hamilton and our Tiger-Cats are intertwined.

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By Vod_Kann (registered) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 19:42:04

"2.2% is 505 000 (the population on the highway sign) divided by 23 000, the published average Ticat attendance for the last 20 years or so."

Not to nitpick but actually that is 4.5%.

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By most-watched sporting event (anonymous) | Posted August 30, 2011 at 19:45:13

WOw what a legacy for sports investment. :p A facility to 'watch' people do sports instead of sports facilities to do sports which is what a lot of the investment in Vancouver was. Agreed this is a bad deal for Hamilton. Imagine what we could build for people to use with the funds we are putting. Parks, a track, soccer fields, pool, etc.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2011 at 17:50:07 in reply to Comment 68737

Exactly right, & thanks for pointing it out, Most Watched.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 13:52:18

Watching pro sports or elite amateur athletes inspires children to play and train harder to hope one day be playing on that field or ice rink

Comment edited by TreyS on 2011-08-31 13:54:47

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By MSTJEAN (anonymous) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 19:53:58

This is 100% true. I wish we could send this out via DIRECT MAIL to every citizen immediately and get people out opposing all of this. Their is actually no reason to be doing any of this from the cities stand point. What a complete waste of money with 0 return on our money.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted August 31, 2011 at 21:51:15

It is true. Stadiums do not generate much if any tax revenue, there is a large opportunity cost associated with them, and their economic benefits are not generally very big (at least when they draw fans from the immediate area, who spend money they could have otherwise spent on something else in the city).

But they are, in my opinion, a form of infrastructure. Cultural infrastructure.

Some may not patronize sporting events, or any other cultural amenities most medium-to-large size cities offer, but many people do. I think it's time we started thinking about IWS that way, and its rebuild as an investment in the cultural fabric of Hamilton, instead of a subsidy to a team owned by a multi-millionaire.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted September 06, 2011 at 00:00:34

Now that's a lot of food. Not bad for a Football team that has had a lot of bad names thrown about it.

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