While we’re in Canada, it was announced last week that Ivor Wynne Stadium, home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, won’t be getting a renovation as approved last February, but instead will be completely demolished and replaced. The rebuild, city officials promised, could be done under the same $152 million budget, so why not buy a new stadium instead of keeping half an old one?
It sounds reasonable enough, except for the bit where this was apparently decided back in April but not made public until now. As the Hamilton Spectator editorialized last week:
By the way, how does it happen that a complete rebuild will cost the same as rebuilding the south and renovating the north? Again, we’re told, don’t worry your little heads about it. According to senior city staff, more study on the project resulted in a more “refined” cost estimate. So the original estimate was too high? But why? And since city council made the Ivor Wynne decision based on the original cost and project description, doesn’t this mean the decision was made on inaccurate information?
So the north stands will go from benches to seats. But how much money could have been saved by sticking with the original plan — $5 million, $10 million? Shouldn’t council have had the option of making that decision instead of being presented with a fait accompli? Shouldn’t council have had the chance to decide between applying the savings to other projects — say the increasingly expensive velodrome — or putting the money back into the Future Fund where it came from originally?
Apparently not. The decision was made and communicated to a bewildered city council. Poof. New stadium. Don’t worry, be happy.
And it’s official: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be getting a rebuilt Ivor Wynne Stadium, after the Hamilton city council voted to approve the deal last night, with just hours to spare before a February 1 deadline to get a stadium plan in place or risk losing the 2015 Pan Am Games. A Pan Am announcement is now expected for today.
And what of that $38.6 million funding gap? The
council province dealt with that on Sunday, agreeing to kick in an additional $22.5 million to get the deal finalized. (Yeah, I know those numbers aren’t the same — apparently the cost estimate was also reduced by $2.5 million, but that still doesn’t explain it. Chalk it up to Canadian math.)
The upshot of this denouement? After rejecting earlier stadium plans because they would require additional city funds, Hamilton okayed a deal that would require additional city funds — just not quite as much. The TiCats, meanwhile, will be getting a virtually new stadium virtually free. It’s not the worst deal for the public in stadium-subsidy history, but it’s not exactly a victory, either — except inasmuch that both the Hamiton city council and I can stop thinking about it quite so much now.
Those of you who questioned whether there would really be no funding gap for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats‘ stadium renovation plans, give yourself a prize: The latest cost estimates for rebuilding Ivor Wynne Stadium came in at $159.1 million, which leaves a gap of $38.6 million.
Hamilton city councillor Lloyd Ferguson insists to the Hamilton Spectator that the inflated price tag is the result of overly cautious provincial estimators; city recreation director Diane LaPointe-Kay retorts that to rebuild a stadium to Pan Am Games specs adds more costs.
Either way, city officials are now turning to the province for more money — so far Ontario says it will help, but won’t issue a “blank cheque.” Which leaves the question of why this plan is any better than all the other stadium plans. Also, whether this can possibly all get worked out by that February deadline.
The Ivor Wynne renovation plan inched ahead yesterday, as the Hamilton city council voted unanimously to conduct a study analyzing the Tiger-Cats’ plan by January 24.
Estimates are that the cost of renovation could be covered by the $45 million already committed by the city and $70 million from the Pan Am Games, so at least unlike previous stadium plans, there’d be no funding gap. There are no details about what kind of lease the Tiger-Cats would want, though, which is somewhat worrying — apparently the city of Hamilton has already been subsidizing the team to the tune of $1.3 million a year, so one would hope that would be eliminated in exchange for providing them with a renovated stadium at no cost.
Also unknown: Who’ll get the proceeds from naming rights and other sponsorships, if those are sold? As hopefully Hamilton officials already known, a construction funding agreement is a nice start, but the real devil is in the lease details.
Another day, another Hamilton Tiger-Cats stadium plan. Just five days after touting a free-for-taxpayers stadium in Burlington, the Ticats owner Bob Young today announced a new plan to rebuild Ivor Wynne stadium in Hamilton instead. Wrote Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina in a letter to the city council:
The Tiger Cats are prepared to sign a lengthy lease with the City to continue to play in a rebuilt stadium on the Ivor Wynne site. The old stadium was originally rejected because of the requirement for about twenty acres to include an adjacent warm-up track as required by Hostco. This configuration was not possible on the available land. When the difficulties over site selection continued to the point where the deadline was looming the Tiger Cat management put all options on the table. In our discussion yesterday afternoon I urged them to give serious consideration to rehabilitation of the old stadium, and a long-term agreement with the City as a show of faith to residents and fans. There was no hesitation by both Bob Young and Scott Mitchell in agreeing to a 20 year lease arrangement, pending details of course.
Pending details, of course. Young told a press conference this morning that building at the Ivor Wynne site could save $100 million in land and infrastructure costs, which would be convenient given that land costs have been the main holdup in any new stadium deal. Not the only holdup, though — there was about a $30 million construction funding gap as well, and neither Young nor Bratina said exactly how much a redone Ivor Wynne would cost. Nor are there any details immediately on whether the Ticats would need to relocate for renovations, though from the sound of it Young may be talking about the kind of phased reconstruction during offseasons that the Boston Red Sox used for Fenway Park.
That said, it’s at least promising that Young, instead of drawing a line in the sand, is agreeing to a scaled-down stadium project that avoids having to hit up taxpayers for additional money. Then again, he may not have had much choice: Yesterday Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring all but took his city out of the running for a Ticats, saying, “Burlington is simply not large enough and therefore does not have the financial capacity to lead on this project.” And, of course, available Pan Am Games funding is due to expire if not used by February 1. Sometimes, cities have leverage too.
That Burlington stadium plan for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats got a boost yesterday when team officials promised that it wouldn’t cost the city anything. And how would they work that, exactly? By estimating construction costs at between $90 and $120 million, down from the $166 million price tag for a stadium in Hamilton; assuming that the Pan Am Games will still kick in $70 million (I had $60 million, but maybe somebody misreported something); adding $30 million in private “investment and capital“; getting free land from a developer who wants to build next to a stadium; and handwaving away the possibility that a $120 million cost would still leave a $20 million budget gap. (“If they need more than that, well, that‚Äôs the Ticats challenge,” said Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring.)
Burlington would still be on the hook for unspecified “infrastructure” costs, though Goldring insisted that these would be necessary with or without the stadium.
Burlington city councillors still sound pretty skeptical, but if nothing else this gives the new stadium plan some momentum (otherwise known as “headlines”) leading into the last few weeks before the Pan Am Games’ February 1 deadline. Stay tuned for more exciting plot twists!
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats owners barely had time to leak the news yesterday that they were considering building a stadium in the neighboring city of Burlington before Burlington elected officials said they hated the idea. With the city already busy paying off a new performing arts center and other improvements, and property taxes already on the rise, several city councillors said they’d be wary of committing to a football stadium as well.
Or, as councillor Jack Dennison memorably put it:
“Our mouths are full. Our constituents agree our mouths are full and we have to stop chewing before we go and stick any more in our mouth.”
Still, Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring is expected to commission a report on the possibility of building a Tiger-Cats stadium in Burlington, for which a total price tag remains unknown. And if nothing else, it could be scaring some Hamilton pols into reconsidering their rejection of stadium sites in their city: At least one of the nine councillors who opposed the Confederation Park site, says he could change his vote at the next council hearing on January 12. Stadium deals are never over till they’re over…
The Hamitlon Tiger-Cats stadium plan just gets deader and deader: The Hamilton city council met yesterday, and not only rejected the overly pricey Canadian Pacific Railway site, but also the Confederation Park site that was supposed to be the cheaper alternative:
Council shot down a motion from Mayor Bob Bratina to investigate the location at an emergency meeting Wednesday morning. He proposed that staff bring a ‘preliminary progress report’ back to council by Jan. 14.
The majority of council disagreed with the mayor, arguing that Confederation Park was important green space, that the city was tired of the ongoing debate, and that staff don’t have enough time to come up with an accurate analysis by mid-January.
“We’re asking our staff to do an impossible job in a very short amount of time,” said Councillor Terry Whitehead. “Therefore we will be making a decision based on incomplete information.”
The odds of getting a stadium approved in time for the Pan Am Games deadline of February 1 just went from slim to virtually none, which would blow an additional $60 million hole in the stadium budget. (Though the Games organizers could conceivably extend the deadline, as they’ve done before.) As for what happens next, I’d lay my money on more veiled move threats, followed by more mad scrambling to find a suitable site, followed by more mad scrambling to figure out how to pay for the whole thing. Lather, rinse, repeat.
So much for the power of excitement. Newly elected Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina revealed yesterday that the plot of land identified as the best compromise location for a Hamilton Tiger-Cats stadium would cost $70-90 million, adding: “I’ve called a special council meeting [for Wednesday] and we will determine whether there is any point in continuing to pursue that particular site and my guess would be, in view of the high cost, no.”
Bratina had previously estimated the stadium funding gap, which includes at least $30 million in actual construction costs to be paid for by Not Me, at $53 million; the new land price tag would push that figure to at least $100 million. None of this should be any surprise — city councillors were already skeptical that the plan was affordable — but it certainly throws a wrench into getting a new stadium approved by the Pan Am Games’ February deadline.
Bratina indicated that he’ll now look to build a stadium in Confederation Park, a public park on the shore of Lake Ontario. Pros: The city already owns it. Cons: It’s already in use, as a public park. Haven’t we been through this before?
After promising an announcement yesterday to provide details of a plan to build a hotel, conference
center centre, and townhouses alongside their perpetually planned new stadium, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats owners announced … that they plan to build a hotel, conference centre, and townhouses. Any other details, if they were supplied, didn’t make it into the Canadian media coverage.
In any case, the prime holdup in the Ticats stadium saga remains, which is that $30-million-plus-whatever-the-stadium-land-costs funding gap in the project. Local elected officials, to their credit, seem to be mostly keeping their eyes on the prize:
“Pretty pictures don’t excite me anymore,” said city councillor Brad Clark. “I need to know where the money is.”
Echoed fellow councillor Russ Powers: “Where’s the beef?”
And another member of city council, Terry Whitehead, added: “Is it smoke and mirrors?”
Hamilton Mayor-elect Bob Bratina, meanwhile, said he hoped that “excitement” over the development plans announced yesterday would convince either public or private sources to cough up enough money to fill the funding gap, which he estimated at $53 million. And if that doesn’t work, maybe the Ticats could pay some Canadians to act excited for them.