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Caretaker Stadium Update: October 5

There will be a future for the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton. But we need your help.

As a 12 year old, I remember taking the bus down from Ancaster to downtown Hamilton to visit our family dentist Dr. Coborn in the Medical Arts Building on James Street S. As the bus drove past Aberdeen, I used to idly admire the box cars sitting in the TH&B railyards. I would often wonder what the initials TH&B stood for, but we were soon on Main and I was admiring the then new City Hall, and the cannons and Queen Victoria in Gore Park. This was the 1960’s and Gore Park was pretty cool to a 12 year old.

Little did I know but the TH&B railyards, now known as the CP railyards, and those old box cars that sat there would be a very important part of Hamilton’s and the Tiger-Cats’ future 45 years later.

The good news – no, the great news, is that we appear close to having reached an agreement on a plan for the PanAm Stadium for Hamilton that will work for the Pan American Games Committee (Hostco), the City of Hamilton, and the Tiger-Cats.

You will have no doubt heard of some of the stories and some of the complaints about the proposed Stadium. One of the features of a vibrant democracy is that you will never be able to please all the people all the time. Yet as a society and a successful democracy, we make decisions and we move forward. We build airports for our airline industry to use, we build roads for our trucking industry to use, and occasionally, once every 70 years or so, we decide to build a stadium for the teams representing our City to play in and for the community to use.

This is one of those years. More great news for the taxpayers of Hamilton is that both the provincial and federal governments are investing the majority of the funding for this project.

This great opportunity means that for the first time in decades, the Tiger-Cats and the City of Hamilton will have a first-rate facility we can be proud of as a national showcase for not only the teams but our great City. The Tiger-Cats won’t have to rely on wealthy owners to subsidize the team representing Hamilton. Between investing in the $2,000,000.00 Dofasco/Arcelor Mittal TigerVision scoreboard, refurbishing the team’s quarters at Ivor Wynne, buying a building downtown for the Business operations, and funding the operating losses of the team for the last six years, as Caretaker of the team I’ve invested over $30,000,000.00 in the team and the City of Hamilton. We employ over 250 people in a wide variety of roles, and hundreds more part-time workers in Hamilton rely on and benefit from our related businesses.

The economics of a CFL team, even when we bring additional events to a new Stadium, do not enable CFL teams to build their stadiums on their own. We can, and we will be, investing in the Stadium and working with the City to find new revenue streams to ensure the Stadium contributes enough economic activity (and the resulting tax revenue) to the City of Hamilton that the Stadium more than justifies the City’s investment.

My goal is not and was never to get rich owning the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. My original goal still applies, namely that I am just the Caretaker of this 141-year-old cultural institution, and it is my responsibility to ensure the team prospers for at least another 141 years after I am no longer able to contribute. The team had gone bankrupt in 2003 and has lived on the edge of insolvency for the last forty years, trying to play out of Ivor Wynne.

To be clear, we all love Ivor Wynne. When it was built as Civic Stadium in 1930, Ivor Wynne was on the outskirts of Hamilton with lots of parking and great road and public transit access. The growth of the City over the last eighty years causes even the public transit HSR buses to have trouble navigating the traffic before and after games. All successful downtown stadiums are – both – downtown – and – are located on major highways. It is not a choice between public transit and private vehicle, all successful stadiums take advantage of all popular forms of transit to and from the event. We are not talking about an Art Gallery or an office building with a few hundred or a few thousand visitors over the course of a day. We are talking about a large audience venue where we need to get 25,000 or more people to the venue within an hour or two of the game, and home again as quickly as possible. Choosing one form of transit over all others just does not work. We need to ensure Stadium customers have as many options as possible, the more the better, from walking, to bicycling, to busing, to riding on a future LRT, or driving themselves and their friends to the Stadium. All of this will be possible at the CP railyards.

While there are no guarantees in business, the positive attributes of this new location will allow the Tiger-Cats, potential other teams, and the economics of the Stadium itself a realistic chance to be successful. The new Stadium will feature most of the elements needed in a modern large audience facility. From modern, comfortable individual seats, to good access, to public transit and major highways, the Stadium will attract visitors from across the Province to attend football games, soccer games, and many other entertainment events in Hamilton.

Building the Stadium on the CP railyards also meets the City’s desire to see additional investment in the City urban core, including upgrading the value of existing urban space, in this case converting a 110-year-old underused railway yard into a modern sports and entertainment district.

I’m excited as a Tiger-Cat fan, but more importantly, I’m excited as a Hamiltonian about this PanAm Stadium. We are going to need your help if we and the City are going to get this project across the finish line. We need you to send a note to the Mayor and to your City Councillor. Also, don’t be shy about speaking up in all the online forums from www.ticats.ca to www.thespec.com about your support for building a successful stadium in Hamilton.

The City, the community and the Tiger-Cats need closure on this issue. Let’s get the job done!

Cheers,

Bob

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