Sports

Pan Am Baseball Pitch Worth a Look

By Robert Fick
Published March 05, 2012

Welcome to the Pan-Am Games file again, ahem.

As reported by the Hamilton Spectator on March 2, the 2015 Pan-Am Games Committee sent a letter dated March 1 to City Council inviting a proposal to host the games' baseball tournaments for both baseball and softball.

The cost involved features a preliminary estimate of as much as $13 million, with Hamilton having to carry a 44 percent share of that, or $5.72 million if the figure this is based upon is indeed a maximum.

I am not crazy about the idea of going further into the Future Fund over Pan-Am Games expenditures. Nor do I think we are in any particular position to add such costs into the current budget being outlined, given that it looks very much as though there is a possible tax increase on the horizon already.

It is not difficult to understand the cool reception this is getting from some members of the Council in light of the political extravaganza that was the Great Stadium Debate.

Further, in addition to the budget debate, there are other issues afoot such as the continuing sagas of LRT, the West Harbour lands, the Board of Education building and the McMaster University proposal deal... City Council currently has a lot of important (and potentially very costly) items on its plate.

Still, let's not throw this idea out of the park until we take a good look at the pitch. We do have baseball, and softball facilities that could be adapted for the games with temporary stands to bring them up to the standards outlined by the 2015 Pan-Am Committee for the tournament.

Baseball is a sport that is played and watched throughout much of the Americas, and for Hamilton to host it might provide an opportunity to do some international marketing and self-promotion of our city during the tournament.

If the deal could be done such that private interests could carry some of the costs in exchange for advertizing opportunities during the two tournaments, this may be a means of off-setting the costs of facility upgrades that we could put to future use for local minor and rep community-level baseball.

That's a selling point in regards to the stadium from the standpoint of local future use of the facilities after the Pan-Am tournaments were concluded. Further, temporary seating upgrades may come in at considerably less than $5.7 million.

I understand the caution that has been initially expressed by the Council, who I'm sure do not want to "get plunked by a wayward curveball" in a deal like this. Still, we should at least have a good look at it before saying no.

The deadline to respond is reported as being July 31. Taking the time to have a good look may reveal a home run pitch that we ought to take a good solid cut at.

Robert Fick is a local health and social economics/policy researcher and author.

43 Comments

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 08:39:08

I agree that we should look at this with some seriousness and without the wounds of Pan Am past lingering over our shoulders.

That figure is oddly close to what we were willing to spend for a facility that was much harder to justify as community use than baseball pitches.

How many does Bernie Harbour seat now? Does upgrading it make it a future option for an even higher level ball team? Baseball at the minor league level is pretty big in our city. It along with soccer, is simply much more affordable for families to enroll our kids in.

Do we still have that $5M 'sitting' there from the Veledrome file or have we assigned it to the Seniors Centre for Ward 3?

I think recent events also tell us we have some signififant issues on our mtn accesses. Sherman looks like its next to give out.

Still, do we need upgrades to our baseball diamonds? Does someone footing half the bill if we are looking $14M for upgrades total, benefit us? Surely we don't need some of what we'd get for that price but how does it pay off? Could we be a hot spot for large baseball tournaments with that many pitches with bleachers?

From the spectator level, surely many more would watch it over cycling including me. I enjoy baseball and would definately check out a few games. I would have checked out cycling too out of curiosity but I am certainly more partial to outdoor events. Including football/baseball over my favorite sport hockey, indoors.

Of course there is that 'veledrome would have been all year use' versus just the spring/summer/fall.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-03-05 08:47:35

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By TnT (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 08:51:45

Larry, this seems to be an idea sent right over the plate to you. I think you can sell this idea, but it is certainly going to be a tough sell. The shine has really come off this for most people.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 09:38:13

Bernie Arbour Stadium 3,000 seats.

Map of Hamilton Slow Pitches.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-03-05 09:47:45

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By Robert (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 09:57:15

Agreed Lawrence, I think you are asking the pertinent questions, though I would point out that a number of our current baseball diamonds are turned into outdoor skating rinks during the winter by the City and local groups/volunteers, hence a winter use.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 10:30:16 in reply to Comment 75013

I did notice that on the rink map Open Hamilton put together. Not sure how well we do volunteer-wise with regards to volunteers being available to transform these diamonds into rinks but it would be nice to have a yearly 'pitch' to ensure we have gathered enough volunteers for all the area's where we have opened them up for outdoor rinks. If the desire/need is there.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 10:37:04

Being a massive baseball fan, I'm just a little bit biased. I'd like to see an upgrade to Bernie Arbour ~ or better yet, a beautiful new stadium downtown, though that'll never happen. A refurbished stadium could attract professional baseball to Hamilton again which would pretty much rule. Personally, I think we could have got more out of the velodrome but I'd be happy with this.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 10:51:25

sigh... am I the only one who can no longer give the teensiest of a crap about the Pan Am games? I no longer have any desire to see any of the city or the province's money go into this debacle.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 12:08:21 in reply to Comment 75010

City of Hamilton list of Diamonds

Baseball Hamilton Map - I put this together rather quickly.

I've likely missed many baseball pitches but it gives a quick idea of the number of baseball diamonds we have in Hamilton with some significant areas like Mohawk Sports Complex, Turner Park, and the Dundas Driving Park to name a few, with a substantial number of diamonds in one area.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-03-05 12:11:07

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 12:32:33

I have found the Pan-Am process to be like a baby's diaper. Clean and crisp on the outside, full of shit once you open it up.

Sorry boys, I'm out on this one.

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By RB (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 12:47:10 in reply to Comment 75018

Yeah, unfortunately, I get this same feeling. I want to be excited, but it's just not there anymore.

Comment edited by RB on 2012-03-05 12:47:21

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 13:24:15

I juste don`t get some pls in Hamilton whinning about the Stadium that we need so bad .. and a world Cicling track and now we can get some nice bleechers for our Hamilton ThunderBirds up to date bleechers and nice press box whould be nice if you whant Hamilton to be a decent city to play sports get to parr with sports inferstuctures like other citys in Canada but noooo all we we know what to do in Hamilton is whinne all the time im strating to get tierd of everry sporting events going out west like Calgary

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 13:26:27

And whats with 5,7 millions .... im sure some private companys can fork out maybe 1 or 2 millions don`t forget naming wrights and the city the other half

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 14:27:46 in reply to Comment 75017

Actually I think we would get more use and more value out of a baseball facility than a velodrome. However having witnessed the brain trust on Main St completely pooch the Stadium issue, I'm not inclined to want to participate in any more "legacy" projects at taxpayers expense.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 15:13:13 in reply to Comment 75029

Perhaps the feds could pay for it, either directly, or through tax cuts to persons, which could then be transferred to the city.

Current federal debt charges are only 1.80% of GDP, a level not seen since 1967.

In fact, from 1980-2002, federal debt charges never fell below 3% of GDP. From 1982-2000, they never fell below 4% of GDP. From 1985-96, they remained above 5% of GDP.

Our current federal debt is $580 billion. If we doubled it, that would amount to $16,714 for each Canadian. For a city like Hamilton, that amounts to an extra $8.69 billion.

Even after doubling the debt, debt charges would still be less than 4% of GDP, less than we paid in 2000.




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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 15:30:19 in reply to Comment 75030

That's the principle. That does not include the interest. I find it alarming that the concept of doubling the national debt seems so blase and matter of fact to you. Every dollar that goes to servicing debt or interest on the debt is a dollar that can not be put into hard services and programs. You know that pesky annoying stuff like health care, national defense, pensions.

In stead of adding to the debt, a key national fiscal policy should be eliminating it. Then a prosperous wealthy county like we live would not have to have conversations about how we are going to pay for health care... etc.

Baseball facilities, velodromes etc are nice frills. But if the project can't be managed properly or paid for. Thanks but no thanks.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted March 05, 2012 at 15:38:47 in reply to Comment 75030

I have to admit A this just went woosh. Is there an different way to explain this/somewhere I can go to understand this concept a little better?

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By greensleeves (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 16:32:09

The magnitude of the total taxpayers’ exposure should wake up those involved to the fact that major TO2015 restructuring must be done,” wrote Paul Henderson, the very man who lobbied for the Pan Am games to help future athletes.

Now he says “costs will, when all taxpayers’ exposures and student taxes are totalled, be at least $4 billion.”

....The original cost was pegged at $1.4-billion.

http://www.torontosun.com/2012/01/02/henderson-letter-outlines-skyrocketing-pan-am-games-costs

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By greensleeves (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 16:36:35 in reply to Comment 75030

It's not exactly clinical, but you can double the per-capita burden by including Ontario's $252 billion debt (debt-to-GDP ratio: 35%), which I think works out to around $18K for every living Ontarian.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 17:07:16 in reply to Comment 75034

Ontario's debt charges ($9.527 billion) in 2010-11 were 1.55% of GDP.

In 2007-08, just prior to the recession and before any talk of a debt crisis for Ontario, debt charges were ($8.914 billion) 1.53% of GDP.

Back in 2002-03, after a few years of surpluses, debt charges were ($9.694 billion) 2.03% of GDP.

Newfoundland, which has had a very strong economy in recent years, had debt charges in 2009-10 of 3.62%/GDP.



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By greensleeves (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 18:42:13 in reply to Comment 75035

Oh, debt *charges*... like the monthly minimum on your plastic, yes?

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 19:18:00 in reply to Comment 75031

>> Every dollar that goes to servicing debt or interest on the debt is a dollar that can not be put into hard services and programs.

At the provincial level, you're correct. However, at the federal level, this is not actually the case.

When the feds need money to spend, (programs, interest payments) they just get the Bank of Canada to credit their account (Receiver General Consolidated Revenue Fund).

Here is a quote from the Parliament of Canada...

"In contrast to a fiscal surplus, a fiscal deficit results in an influx of cash into the private economy since the government injects more money through its spending than it collects in taxes."

An influx of money means it is new money that wasn't there before. If this wasn't the case, GDP couldn't have grown from $41 billion to $1.7 trillion (1961-2011).

>> Instead of adding to the debt, a key national fiscal policy should be eliminating it.

If you reduce the amount of money in Canada's banking system, how will people be able to pay back their mortgages? Credit debt is fixed, so if too much liquidity drains from our economy, it will be mathematically impossible for people to pay these debts back.

>> Baseball facilities, velodromes etc are nice frills. But if the project can't be managed properly or paid for. Thanks but no thanks.

They can be paid for, because the feds have the ability to print money in exchange for useful work.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 20:04:40 in reply to Comment 75032

What part are you wondering about?

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By Bernie (anonymous) | Posted March 05, 2012 at 21:58:53

Not sure I want to spend the money proposed on ball parks for spectators in this size range but it is infinitely more valuable to Hamilton than the velodrome albatross. The real problem of course is the sure fired opposition to any investment outside the downtown core will kill it and further divide the city. Until all parties realize that whats good for Hamilton is good for ALL of Hamilton and the continuing hijacking of public discourse by a small group will never improve the city but continue to push it barreling down the road of destruction

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 01:48:32

The only way this is worth it, is if you could easily convert the pitch into an Amphitheater and put it as the West Harbor. A small concert venue would certainly help out that area. We already have a perfectly serviceable ballpark at Bernie Arbor, and given how (un)popular baseball is in these parts. I have doubts that the Hamilton Thunderbirds are drawing close to their 3,000 capacity at Bernie Arbor, so what is really the point of adding to our infrastructure costs for a facility that isn't going to be used. Without at least a AAA team affiliated with the Blue Jays, it's a lost cause as you need a tenant who pays rent and pays for the maintenance costs. The Pan-Am games can rent the Rogers Center for baseball. Save the money and put it towards making a better, renewed athletic district at Ivor Wynne, or better yet, reimburse the future fund.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2012-03-06 01:54:29

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 07:17:00 in reply to Comment 75048

I like what you have there Hammer ... verry good feedback west Harbour whould be nice place for a nice ballpark/amphitheater whoiuld be nice ... maybe Bob Young whould fork up at least hafe of the bill ... thats what he said if he had his Stadium he whould biult somthing sortta of a amppfitheter

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By @Conrad (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 08:51:42 in reply to Comment 75050

That ship sailed when a viable site was turned down. Since the stadium is now located where everyone except Lawrence agrees it can't work there is no money to be had

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2012 at 09:48:26 in reply to Comment 75039

Yes and look how printing more money has worked for the United States. Their largest economic competitor now holds the majority of their debt, that being China. This impacts monetary, fiscal, domestic and foreign policy decisions.

Further.... ahem Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal. Yet more examples of national fiscal spending run amok.

You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

By paying the national debt down you're not taking money out of the banking system. You're simply allocating a larger portion of the federal budget to debt repayment. They are two different things.

You're talking gobbeldy gook

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 09:57:04 in reply to Comment 75029

Yeah, can't really argue with you there.

However, I did think that having the ONLY world-class velodrome in the country would have been a decent investment.

Really, though, I've just about had it with this whole charade.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 12:11:25 in reply to Comment 75054

>> Yes and look how printing more money has worked for the United States.

It's actually worked pretty well.

From July 2007, when U.S. household debt payments/income were 13.96%, they are now down to 11.08%, the lowest level since Oct 1994.

In contrast, Canadian consumer debt is on the rise, as people are being forced to borrow, because taxes are too high.

As for who owns U.S. debt, it is not important. As long as the U.S. can "print" money to make payments, there will always be someone willing to swap U.S. cash for cash plus interest (bonds).

>> Further.... ahem Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal.

And all of these countries use the Euro, not their own national currency. By giving up their own central banks, they have lost the ability to "print" money.

Canada retains its central bank and therefore can always make interest payments, no matter how high they get.

>> By paying the national debt down you're not taking money out of the banking system.

Let's assume there is $1000 of Canadian savings in the banking system.

If the feds run a surplus, that means they tax $10 and only spend $9. Because spending adds money to bank accounts and taxes deplete bank accounts, if you tax more than you spend, eventually you deplete the amount of money in bank accounts.

$100 Savings + $9 Spending - $10 Taxes = $99
$99 Savings + $9 Spending - $10 Taxes = $98
$98 Savings + $9 Spending - $10 Taxes = $97

As you can see, when the feds run a surplus, it actually depletes the bank accounts of Canadians.

If people already have high levels of household debt, a government surplus makes it almost impossible for people to pay back their loans. They can, but it requires an equally as large reduction in spending.

When people stop spending, that's what they call a recession/depression.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 06, 2012 at 12:29:10 in reply to Comment 75055

Yes, but Hamilton does have a decent community of baseball players. If you want to support local sports for Hamiltonians, not just as a venue for larger events, baseball is probably a better event than Velo.

But either way, the stadium debacle has utterly burned me out on the subject.

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By Robert (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 13:16:18

Not everyone disagrees either, and it is not as though there is no money to be had - any more than locating new baseball facilities at West Harbour is an impossibility. Moreover, a lot of baseball is played at various levels in Hamilton, and there is something to be said for building a new ones or improving the existing ones. Look at the facilities map posted by Lawrence and note the possibilities that are evident - which goes for funding avenues too, provided some creative forward and positive thinking was put into the process.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 16:21:53 in reply to Comment 75048

I should also note, AAA is like the AHL of MLB, and well all know how much support is there for our AHL team.

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By In the zone (anonymous) | Posted March 06, 2012 at 17:35:00

Well Conrad, Vancouver is happy albeit Hamilton is no Vancouver as we know.

http://cfl.ca/article/grey-cup-economic-impact-exceeds-118-million

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 05:58:01 in reply to Comment 75068

Did i say Vancouver ... its more like Calgary at leaat get it wright

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 08:36:42

Toronto 2015 offered the Pan Am baseball and softball events to the City of Brampton in early February, 2012. Brampton city council voted to decline the offer on February 22, 2012: http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news/cit...

On March 1, 2012, Toronto 2015 offered Pan Am baseball and softball to Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Toronto 2015, Infrastructure Ontario and Hamilton city council will not even publicly disclose whether the Pan Am football stadium, to which Hamilton taxpayers are committed to contributing up to $60 Million, is being designed to face north-south or east-west, there has been no consultation with the neighbourhoods surrounding the Ivor Wynne Stadium site, and we are still unaware of the additional costs of developing the "stadium precinct".

Perhaps Pan Am baseball and softball would have been a good fit for Hamilton had it been offered back when the city had money, time and enthusiasm to properly plan for it. The city could have explored whether the Toronto Blue Jays had any interest in placing its AAA minor league team at a new ballpark at the west harbour site after its contract with Las Vegas expires in 2013. However, as it stands now, the Pan Am football stadium relocation caper and the current uncertainties as to the cost and design of the stadium and the precinct have drained this city of most of the money, time and enthusiasm it would have had for the Pan Am velodrome project or for the recent Pan Am baseball and softball offer.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-03-07 08:37:48

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By In the zone (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 14:02:46

Not sure what a return on investment would be with a baseball stadium and velodrome though. At least with the football stadium we know that cities rake in millions as has been reported for the past few years and while, as I say, Hamilton is no Vancouver or Calgary, at least this facility has a fighting chance to contribute back to the city coffers.

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By In the zone (anonymous) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 14:03:57

Oops, forgot to mention the Grey Cup in my above post as to contributing millions to the cities that have hosted it as of late.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 14:06:52 in reply to Comment 75077

As far as the Stadium precinct will go let Bob Young pic up the tab for that ... he whanted the city to biuld a 18 million conference room for them when they finaly agreed to do it at the same place I.W.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 17:43:45

At the Hamilton city council meeting this evening, there was a tie vote (8 to 8) on a motion to refer to the General Manager of Public Works and obtain a report in relation to the letter from Toronto 2015 seeking expressions of interest to locate and build a venue for baseball and softball. Due to the tie vote, the motion was defeated.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-03-07 18:20:19

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 07, 2012 at 21:27:59 in reply to Comment 75092

thank the good Lord.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 08:12:43 in reply to Comment 75088

What with Vancouver .. its like comparing Stoney Creek to New York City get a gripp .. a BaseBall feld whould be alot better then a Velodrome by far and don`t compar a smake base-ball diamonf to a pro Stadium ... its whould be nice to see a Beff up Bernie Arbour Stadium

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 08, 2012 at 10:16:58 in reply to Comment 75089

I wouldn't expect history to repeat itself if the Grey Cup is ever hosted in Hamilton again. We're not set up to make money on an event of that size - insufficient hotel space, insufficient entertainment options around the stadium, and insufficient tourism options generally (no reason for visitors to stay an extra day or two in Hamilton).

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By Jumpstart (anonymous) | Posted April 03, 2012 at 08:12:12

World-class LOLZ.

At last week’s council meeting, Bernie Morelli and Lloyd Ferguson put forward a motion asking the Games’ organizing committee, TO2015, to choose Hamilton as the second site for the Pan Am cultural festival.

However, Pan Am officials were quick to reject the idea.

“Not sure where or on what basis Hamilton believes it is a cultural site,” Louise Lutgens, Pan Am’s vice-president of external partnerships and community outreach, said in an email sent to the city on Friday. “We certainly know that based on current budgets from TO2015 that is not possible.”

Hamilton’s Pan Am portfolio has been steadily shrinking since 2010, when the city lost track and field events during the protracted — and heated — stadium debate. Hamilton gave up on cycling events last fall when council refused to pay more than $5 million of the estimated $45-million cost of building a velodrome.

The city also recently passed on an opportunity to host baseball during the 2015 Games. In March, councillors voted against even investigating the possibility of bidding on hosting baseball and softball, arguing they didn’t have the appetite to reopen the painful Pan Am debate — or to face a potential $6-million price tag for new facilities.

However, there’s still a chance that the city could see an additional Pan Am venue — a training pool at McMaster University.

Mac spokesperson Andrea Farquhar said the university is still waiting to hear whether its proposal was successful.

“We were waiting for their review and for their decision. So we’re status quo,” she said.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/698136--city-s-role-in-2015-pan-am-games-shrinks-again

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