Tiger-Cats stadium plan now has hotel, $53m in red ink

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.

Tiger-Cats stadium deadline pushed back to February

I know I’ve said that stadium deadlines are made to be broken, but the one in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats stadium standoff is getting ridiculous:

The City of Hamilton and the Ticats have been given yet another deadline extension as they attempt to craft a business plan for a new stadium, which is slated to be used as a soccer venue during the 2015 Pan Am Games. The Ticats have said it is crucial they get a new home — to replace the aging Ivor Wynne Stadium — if they are to remain in the city.

Ian Troop, the head of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games organizing committee, had earlier said the city and Ticats needed to have a firm business plan for the stadium in place by this week. But considering the progress being made, Troop is now willing to set a new “absolute and final deadline” of Feb. 1, 2011.

“Progress being made” notwithstanding, the time is needed, writes the Montreal Gazette, to fill a “huge budget shortfall” that remains for the $166 million stadium plan: In addition to a $30 million gap in construction costs, no one has offered to pay the cost of buying land for the stadium (the Ticats owners say they’d buy land around it for development, which isn’t the same thing). And no one knows how much that land will cost — just one of a lot of unanswered questions about the stadium proposal.

I’d like to hope that they’ll all be answered by February, but sadly, history tells us otherwise.

Reports of Hamilton stadium’s death greatly exaggerated

Stop the presses! The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the city of Hamilton have done what was thought to be impossible: agreed on a site for a new stadium. Yesterday the two warring factions announced an agreement in principle to build a new stadium on railyards in Hamilton’s west end, with the Tiger-Cats to chip in toward the land’s purchase price to build “an entertainment/sports precinct.”

Now all they need to do s figure out how to pay for it. Even with cash from the federal government for using the stadium for the 2015 Pan Am Games, there is by all accounts a $25-50 million shortfall, plus the cost of buying and remediating the stadium land itself. (The Tiger-Cats owners apparently are only interested in helping pay for land that they can develop themselves.) And that’s for what Hamilton city manager Chris Murray calls a “utilitarian” stadium seating 22,000, which is 3,000 fewer seats than the CFL normally requires.

The Hamilton Spectator also reports that the TiCats are “proposing to manage the stadium for the city while using revenue from naming rights and ticket surcharges to offset operating costs.” Which might not be that great a deal — depending on how the revenues from the place works, Hamilton may be better off running the place itself (or hiring an independent arena manager) and keeping the revenues. But compared to many U.S. stadium deals, where the private tenant just naturally assumes that naming rights money to a publicly funded stadium is theirs to begin with, this is at least a better starting point for talks. It truly is another country.

Hamilton mulling third site for Tiger-Cats stadium

See, I told you that Hamilton Tiger-Cats stadium deadline wasn’t really a deadline:

Hamilton city council held a special meeting Tuesday and voted 13-2 to look at a new possible compromise location in the city’s west end.

“We are acutely aware that this new direction may be (the) last opportunity to kick-start a stadium in Hamilton,” Pan Am Games Organizing Committee chief executive officer Ian Troop said in a statement. “Our venue development work for the stadium is hard up against an immovable deadline for test events in 2014. It is critical to have the City of Hamilton and the Tiger-Cats committing to a co-operative partnership with a concrete plan presented to city council on Sept. 14.”

The “compromise” location is one that emerged in the last week or so: the so-called Longwood site in Hamilton’s west end, which Ticats owner Bob Young praised in a letter to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger on Monday as meeting “the essential sports stadium requirements.”

Eisenberger told the National Post that he’s “not confident at all” that a deal will be struck in the next two weeks, and that “there’s going to have to be an awful lot of work done . . . nobody should jump to the conclusion that this is a slam drunk.” (Sic — unless that’s some Canadianism I haven’t heard.) The big question appears to be how “concrete” the plan will need to be by then to make the Pan Am Games folks happy; if “we’ve agreed to focus on the new site, but don’t know how much it’ll cost or how it’ll be paid for” is enough, clearly that’s easier to accomplish in two weeks than an actual fleshed-out plan.

Tiger-Cats to Hamilton: We don’t want your stinking downtown stadium

The Hamilton city council stuck to its guns Tuesday night, voting 12-3 to approve the downtown West Harbour site for a stadium for the 2015 Pan Am Games and, if they choose to accept it, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Early signs are that accepting it is not going to be happening:

  • Even before the vote, Ticats owner Bob Young announced he was pulling out of stadium talks. Yesterday, Young told a Toronto sports radio station: “We think it’s a massive mistake and may end the Ticats in Hamilton. We can’t continue to lose millions of dollars a year.” He added that there’s no deal in place to move the team to Quebec City “that I’m aware of,” and said, “I’m looking forward to someone coming up with a solution for this because the way this thing is playing out is very scary for the future of Hamilton Tiger-Cat franchise.”
  • “Hamilton Tiger-Cat legend Angelo ‘King Kong’ Mosca,” according to the Toronto Sun, is hopping mad, and called the mayor “full of shit.” (Unless “sh..” stands for something else in Canada. Full of shite?) Along the same lines, the Hamilton Spectator’s reporter posted on his newspaper’s blog the night of the vote: “There will be no official response from Ticats tonight on council vote. I’d publish the unofficial reaction but this blog is still affiliated with a family newspaper.”
  • CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, unsurprisingly, has backed Young in the dispute, though rather than rattling the move threat saber as some U.S. commissioners are fond of doing, he seems to be angling for coming up with a new stadium plan that will make everybody happy: “We’re talking about a 141 years of history with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This is not going to be resolved in one or two days. We need to step back and understand that there are a lot more things that have to take place in the coming weeks and months.”
  • Mayor Fred Eisenberger seemed to leave the door open to coming up with a new plan, calling the vote “bittersweet,” and saying, “I don’t think it is a victory until we have a stadium where we can get the Tiger-Cats to play … as well. … We’ll do our best to encourage them to come back to the table and talk about how we can make it work.”

Add in that Hamilton might not even get to host part of the Pan Am Games even with a West Harbour stadium, and it sounds increasingly like everyone’s going to retreat to their corners and figure out how to start discussions from scratch a couple of months down the road. Not that that’s going to stop the scare headlines in the meantime.

Hamilton council to decide on stadium site, unless it doesn’t

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats saga lurches ahead, as an end-of-the-week deadline nears for picking sites for the 2015 Pan Am Games:

  • After two Ontario legislators said that the provincial government wouldn’t help fund a stadium at the city’s preferred downtown site, other provincial and federal legislators insisted nuh-uh, funding will go to whatever site the city chooses.
  • The Hamilton city council is set to vote tomorrow on both stadium sites, but several councillors say they don’t have enough information, according to the Hamilton Spectator: “Councillors Lloyd Ferguson and Bob Bratina say the issue remains unclear on what will happen to the funding if council supports the west harbour. They also note there are no answers to a staff report saying the east Mountain stadium would cost taxpayers between $55 million and $80 million more than the west harbour site.”
  • Ti-Cats fans are split on which site they prefer, but most don’t buy the threat that the team will leave: “People leave when they have somewhere to go,” one told the Spectator, while another argued: “I don’t think they would leave because Hamilton is better in Hamilton.” Tough to argue with that.

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.

Oilers’ talks with Hamilton get curiouser and curiouser

Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz’ game of footsie with Hamilton, Ontario has continued over the past week, though it remains hard to say where it’s all headed. Recent developments, in rough order of importance:

  • The Hamilton Spectator reports that Katz is working on a memorandum of understanding with the city to get exclusive rights to bring an NHL team there for four years, at which point, if no team had materialized, he would pay the city of Hamilton $1 million. (Which, even in newly appreciated Canadian dollars, would be pretty much chump change.)
  • Oilers president Patrick LaForge, however, notes that NHL bylaws prohibit owning an interest in more than one team. And while that would seem to imply a threat to move (or sell) the Oilers, he says that’s not in the works either, and that Katz only wants to manage the arena in Hamilton, not put an NHL team there.
  • NHL commissioner Bill Daly insists that Katz won’t be working to help Hamilton get a new NHL franchise, either. Hamilton city council member Bob Bratina, meanwhile, who was in on the talks with Katz, says his proposal wasn’t actually anything formal, adding: “Frankly, the whole thing is very obscure, lacks detail and in some cases doesn‚Äôt make sense.”
  • At least one Edmonton city councillor notes that the timing of all these rumors — sorry, rumours — is pretty convenient, given that Katz is in the middle of a currently stalled new-arena negotiation process in Edmonton.
  • LaForge admits that the timing of the Hamilton talks was, and this is a direct quote, “shitty.” Edmonton city councillors are now, and this is in my own words, pissy, with councillor Ben Henderson warning, “There are all kinds of people who were fully on board with the arena two or three months ago, who are now asking all kinds of questions.”
  • The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, meanwhile, are moving ahead with plans for a new stadium, for which they say they’ll pay “in excess of $74,000,000.00.” The breakdown, however, is only $15 million in cash, plus $3 million a year in operating costs for ten years (which is present dollars is closer to $20 million than $30 million), $10 million in “transition costs,” and $14 million “to bring two Grey Cup Games to Hamilton as soon as possible.” So the vast majority of the cost of a new football stadium would still need to be raised elsewhere. A decision needs to be made by tomorrow if the new stadium will have a shot at hosting part of the 2015 Pan Am Games.

So where does all that leave us? About where we were last week: Either Katz is trying to increase pressure on Edmonton to approve his arena plans, or he wants to grab control of the Tiger-Cats’ new stadium (or the TiCats themselves), or he just really, really likes running arenas. And as for the “shitty” timing, it’s equally hard to say whether that’s a genuinely ham-fisted move or just a cover story for the fact that he meant to do all this to up the ante on either an Edmonton arena, a Hamilton stadium, or both. It’s so hard to tell the difference between incompetence and malfeasance…