December 21, 2010
It's been an interesting few months for CFL stadium situations. Winnipeg's proposed new stadium appeared in dire straits for a while thanks to funding issues, but a deal to move forward was finally reached last week. Meanwhile, things have been going the other way in Hamilton; after plenty of early struggles, a late move to the Canadian Pacific Railway yards (pictured above) appeared to have plenty of potential. Now, it appears that plan is dead.
The issue is that purchasing the rail yard land is estimated to cost $70 to $90 million, which appears completely out of question considering that the project is reported to be still facing a $20 to $50 million funding gap even without land costs. Hamilton city council is going to be holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue, and it's looking like their plan is going to be moving to yet another site. Mayor Bob Bratina, a legendary former Tiger-Cats broadcaster who may have swept into office partially thanks to the stadium mess that engulfed predecessor Fred Eisenberger, now is under the gun to produce a workable solution.
However, that may not be as tough as it sounds. As Mark Masters writes, Bratina thinks the Confederation Park site discussed and shot down earlier might work for both the city and the Tiger-Cats:
Confederation Park, located on the shore of Lake Ontario, has emerged as a potential site for the stadium. Bratina supported the Confederation Park location earlier in the process, but council opted not to pursue the option because they wanted to preserve lakefront green space.
Bratina still believes Confederation Park can work.
"The site is owned by the city, so there is no cost involved," he said. "From the Tiger-Cat perspective, it is next to a major highway, the Queen Elizabeth Way. It is also adjacent to the Canadian National Railway line and we are hoping extended Go service will be added in the area within the next couple of years."
Bratina suggests the private sector, which failed to jump on board with the CP stadium location, will embrace Confederation Park.
"Some businesses have looked at that site and have given it their stamp of approval. The city's original decision was to not evaluate the site, but others did and others feel it has excellent viability."
It's positive that there's a remaining site that could work for both the Tiger-Cats and the city without substantial land acquisition costs, but it's surprising that it took this long to look at it. The official focus has been on the rail yards for the past three months, so it seems highly unlikely that this is the first time cost was discussed, as Drew Edwards writes:
It is simply impossible to believe that this is a shock to anyone: the city and the Ticats must have known what the CP demands were before today - at least a ballpark figure. This feels like a huge game of chicken with Confederation Park.
There are also significant time constraints here. The Pan Am Games organizing committee issued a statement earlier this week that other cities are ready to go ahead with the Pan Am soccer stadium if the Hamilton plan falls apart. The statement reiterates that Hamilton has to provide the committee with a location and construction plan by February 1, which isn't a lot of time. The Confederation Park site could work, but looking at it this late in the process puts a lot of pressure on everyone involved. We'll see how they handle that pressure.