A Place to Park at the Park?

By Jason Leach
Published September 30, 2007

I had to pop my head out my front door and take a quick look around to make sure I was still in the same city after reading the introductory pieces to Hamilton Next in Saturday's Spectator.

The negativity and obvious disconnection with their own city is very evident when reading these Spectator reports. Wade Hemsworth probably comes closest to something resembling reality when he states that our future success is already being developed in burgeoning neighbourhoods like James North, King East, Locke, the waterfront and others.

The rest, however, is mind-boggling.

Toss a new football stadium debate into the mix and it becomes painfully obvious that this paper has little understanding of what could help improve our city.

Every article about a new stadium made a point of waxing eloquently about how wonderful it would be to have a new stadium out in the middle of nowhere because "it would be easy to park". Downtown locations were constantly painted as less than desirable due to the almighty "parking" issue.

There was a glimmer of hope when Camden Yards in Baltimore was mentioned as a great model for an urban stadium. Just so happens I agree 100 percent with that comparison. Baltimore is wonderful and their stadium is wonderful.

One problem, though: Baltimore didn't turn itself around by being addicted to parking lots and wider streets.

Councillor Bob Bratina has had the best idea so far with his suggestion to locate our new stadium downtown at the Sir John A McDonald school site. The students deserve a better school than that mega-prison, and the location would be amazing in creating synergy with our downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods like James North and Hess Village.

And hey, Spec guys, listen up: people could walk or use transit to get a stadium in this location.

While in Boston recently, we took a tour of Fenway Park, a brilliant stadium in a great neighbourhood. The tour guide made the comment that the only people who even attempt to drive to the stadium are people from "those other cities". In other words, cities like Hamilton and Detroit that value empty lots and 1950s thinking over vibrancy and proper urban development.

To add to Bratina's vision, I'd suggest a new hotel/office tower at the western edge of this site built in a similar style as the ‘Flat Iron' buildings in New York and Toronto. Imagine coming along York and seeing the triangle office/hotel tower facing you at Queen St.

A second suggestion would be to look at Seattle as a great model to follow in building a new football stadium. Theirs is brand new and has become a huge hit with the public. It has the smallest footprint of any stadium in the NFL at the request of Paul Allen, the owner, for a park that was small, steep and loud.

It was also built at just the right angle to allow the wind and rain to drive sideways into the stadium to help create a great football atmposhere.

Hmmm, do they really expect me to believe that a multimillionare like Paul Allen requested details like that over parking, parking, parking? Yup. Go visit Seattle sometime. But not if you're from Hamilton, because you'll never find a place to park.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.


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By g. (anonymous) | Posted September 30, 2007 at 13:43:50

i didn't know we needed a new stadium. seems like it should be around number 438 on the list of important improvements hamilton will benefit from. how about some trees first? a new downtown stadium will improve the surrounding area for all of the possible, what, dozen home games the cats play? what about the other 350 days? i do agree with the analysis of the problem just not that there is a problem. mega projects don't revitalise cities, micro projects do. spread the money out.

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By Joe (registered) | Posted September 30, 2007 at 17:59:04

There's an interesting debate going on about the stadium on the Tiger-Cats website.

Here's a clip...

As much as I have fond memories of Ivor Wynne, there are too many benefits for building a new stadium in the downtown core.

-gives fans something to do pre- and post-games (restaurants, bars, etc.) -inject more economic life into that area -provides long term stability instead of a short term band-aid solution -give more appealing views of Hamilton for visiting fans, teams, and especially what's seen on TV

I can't stress the importance of this last point. Hamilton rarely gets national exposure, but one consistent source is showing CFL games from Hamilton. Rather than panning out of the field onto the smokestacks, they can show our harbour, or escarpment, or downtown. Does it surprise you that people still believe Hamilton is a lunchbucket city?

One of the reasons why new players coming to Hamilton lack any passion for the team is (in addition to their ignorance of the TiCats rich history), is that their home field is in the midst of an industrial wasteland. How crappy would you feel if someone doing the same job gets views of the rocky mountains, metropolitan urban centres, or picturesque campuses, while you get to spend your days down the street from pollution spewing smokestacks and rundown buildings?

The argument that we shouldn't change Ivor Wynne due to its sightlines is completely ridiculous. That assumes architects are incapable of designing similar or better sightlines. If you've been to BMO field you'll know the sightlines are excellent.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 30, 2007 at 22:23:21

thanks joe....I just checked out that link.

Wow! Hamiltonians are more addicted to their cars than I realized. Amazing to me how so many people only have one comment to make about a possible new stadium for the city: "where will I park??"

I would love to take 100,000 lifelong Hamilton residents and trade them to Toronto for 50,000 of their citizens. Seems that they're the one's fighting for Hamilton more than anyone these days.

To all those asking "where will I park" if we build a stadium downtown, take a good look:

NOTE: This photo doesn't include the massive underground parking at Jackson Square OR the 6 storey parking garage on York Blvd.

I think you'll find a spot.

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By Joe (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 10:07:00

I definitely think attitudes need to change, whether it's for parking or visiting downtown. My wife and I had a 'date' last weekend in Hamilton (we've been living in Kingston for a couple years). The plan was to find a good restaurant on James St., and we were pleasantly surprised with Ventura's. While eating a seafood feast, I thought to myself how sad it is that I lived in Hamilton all my life and rarely ventured out to try local restaurants. Saturday evenings on James should be bursting with activity--especially in a city with half a million people. Surely a fraction of these people can be attracted to the core, I just don't think politicians have reasonably thought about how, and if they did, haven't translated their thoughts into action.

Here's what I think: Tourism Hamilton should spend part of their time on advertising to Hamiltonians. We're our best ambassadors, and if we don't even enjoy what our city has to offer, how can we expect others to enjoy it? If you read the TiCats forum (link above) you'll see how many Hamiltonians spew negative remarks about their own city. I think that bothers me the most.

An annual booklet with maps of downtown, clearly showing the location of restaurants, bars, and cafes, with discounts for students is a start. University and College students should be a primary target.

This tangent ties into the serious need for light rail lines from Mac, through downtown, to the east end (and another from the Mountain down James). Now that would tell me Hamilton is serious about downtown renewal.

In the meantime, we at least have people at the grassroots level who are working hard to make downtown Hamilton an enjoyable people-place. Keep up the good work!

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By peter (anonymous) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 11:16:06

not to digress, but a fellow hamiltonian actually asked me the other day "do we have an art gallery?" canadians are ignorant about hamilton but no more so than those who already live in this city. that said, i agree with the previous poster. we can't rely on the stupid spec and chch the spread the good word.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 01, 2007 at 19:23:31

unfortunately people spend too much time in front of the TV, and in doing so, are guarunteed to not hear a thing about Hamilton. Not from CTV, CBC or CH/E! We need a real media outlet in this city that can begin to educate the's amazing - a city of half a million with no TV station, no daily paper and no good radio.

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By w willy (registered) | Posted October 02, 2007 at 13:55:20

Stadium projects are invariably more about the real estate play. our local development class is upset that not enough sprawl is happening (being too risk averse to actually develop downtown, because sprawl is what they know), so they are looking for new ways to get Hamiltonians to subsidize the servicing of sprawl. Nothing like a stadium in the middle of nowhere... to open up a whole bunch of land for suburban development. The issue with the Spec isn't the parking, it is always about the devleopment lobby.

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