CFL commissioner: If you don’t take care of Tiger-Cats, we’re not getting you a new one

Hey, looky thar, I missed another sports league commissioner ultimatum last week:

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon is warning that if the Tiger-Cats leave the city over the location of the proposed Pan Am stadium, “it will be the end of the CFL in Hamilton.”

Cohon’s dire statement is included in a three-page letter he sent to city councillors late yesterday in which he urges them to reject placing the stadium at the west harbour and to back the Tiger-Cats’ desire to have the stadium built on the east Mountain. …

“I understand that there are those who assume that, if the Tiger-Cats under Bob Young’s ownership were to leave the city of Hamilton for any reason, our league would be certain to grant the city another franchise by way of expansion,” Cohon writes.

“I do not support that type of thinking nor would our board. In fact, I am deeply concerned that should this issue force the Tiger-Cats to leave the city, it will be the end of the CFL in Hamilton.”

What’s going on here, for those of you who don’t follow Canadian football (or as they call it in Canada, “football”), is that the city of Hamilton has agreed to build a new stadium for the Tiger-Cats, but wants to do so at a downtown site. The Tiger-Cats owners prefer a site in the suburbs, where there’s more room for parking and, crucially, other development to go alongside the stadium.

All this would just amount to your usual team-vs.-city standoff, except that there’s an August 12 deadline to decide on a site for the stadium, or else risk losing Hamilton’s share of the 2015 Pan Am Games — which comes with $60 million in federal and provincial funding (or as they call it in Canada, “$60 million”). Hence the threats from Cohon, who’s trying to scare the Hamilton city council into agreeing to the team’s preferred site by brandishing the threat of a move, possibly to the new stadium in Ottawa. (Which got preliminary approval back in June. Did I forget to mention that at the time? My bad.)

Most observers seem to assume that the whole plan will crash and burn as the standoff continues, but you never know with these things. We’ll know more after August 12 — or not, given that the Pan Am Games have already extended their deadline once already.

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3 comments on “CFL commissioner: If you don’t take care of Tiger-Cats, we’re not getting you a new one

  1. Neil;

    I particularly like Cohon’s conditional preemptive strike.

    “IF any of you believe that IF the Tiger Cats leave that we might give you a replacement team… well, we might not”

    Wow. Makes the Madoff investment scheme seem simple by comparison.

    The truth is, there really isn’t anywhere viable to move this team (Ottawa would not make much sense, since the developers building the stadium there already have a conditional franchise… and they don’t want another partner, even if it is the uber-wealthy Bob Young).

    This is the great thing about football in Canada, there are so few venues suited even to the existing teams, and pretty much no-one is interested in building a stadium on spec…

    As to the West Harbour site, well, I’ve been there. And Young is right. Putting a 25-30k stadium in that location would create traffic nightmares. And to be fair to him, he is putting in a significant amount of his own money to get the stadium built, so in my view he should have some say in where it goes.

  2. Thank-you for covering this Neil. As a resident of Hamilton I appreciate you taking an interest.

    A lot of people are pulling together to force the city to make the right decision (i.e., the right one for the city not the Tiger-Cats). For those interested in learning more about this issue a lot can be learned here:

  3. Let’s see London, Ontario, maybe Windsor, Moncton, Halifax or Quebec City. Those places either need to build a new stadium, renovate an existing stadium to CFL standards or expand the seating capacity at an existing stadium to 25,000 seats.

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