Thursday 15 April 2010

Stadium Fight

I have been wary of actually discussing what is quickly turning into one of the most divisive issues currently being debated amongst Hamiltonians. That issue, of course, is the Pan Am Stadium.

Pan Am Stadium

It's not the stadium itself, but where the stadium should be located that has caused so much consternation. The city has voted on a site in the west harbour, near Bay Street and Barton Street. The Tiger-Cats are not as bullish about this area. The team believes that moving to that location would not satisfy the needs of the team and would be a lateral move from their current home, Ivor Wynne Stadium. Moving from Ivor Wynne to the west harbour would just be going from one money-losing site to another, according to the team.

The city is more concerned with revitalizing the downtown core than making sure the Tiger-Cats are a financially successful business. The city believes that putting the Pan Am Stadium in the west-harbour area would be a step in accomplishing that goal.

I understand the city's reasoning. It's not up to them to make sure that Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young makes money. The city needs to look at the bigger picture, not simply one business.

However, that does not mean that the Tiger-Cats should be forced to move to an area that isn't financially viable for them. When Bob Young bought the team in 2003, he did so with the desire to see a new stadium built for the Tiger-Cats, one that could ensure that he made some money on this venture. If the team believes that moving to the location that the city has chosen doesn't make good financial sense, then why should they move? The team needs to start making money or Bob Young might consider selling or *gasp* moving the team. At the end of the day he's a businessman, and a successful one at that. He will only accept losing money for so long before he decides it's time to move on. As of right now, the Ti-Cats and their partners do not think that they could make enough off additional revenue sources, like naming rights and parking, to make the move to the west harbour work.

While the city wants to take care of the interests of the many, the Tiger-Cats are, and should be, interested in only their own financial well-being. As much as it is not up to the city to make sure the Ti-Cats are successful, it is not up to the Ti-Cats to ensure that businesses around them are successful. Downtown revitalization is key for the city, but means nothing to the team. The team needs as many added revenue streams as they can find in order to make the team financially successful. All the secondary and tertiary off-shoots from a west-harbour stadium do not provide the Tiger-Cats with the additional revenue sources they need to become a profitable business.

Another point of contention, at least among some, seems to be the heavy-handed approach that Hamilton City Council, namely Mayor Fred Eisenberger, seems to be taking in negotiations with the Tiger-Cats regarding the location of the new stadium.

Mayor Eisenberger was quoted as saying that the Tiger-Cats should have little say in the matter because "it's a minority partnership when it comes to the Tiger-Cats." While the mayor is technically correct, for the stadium to have any sort of long-term financial viability, it would need a permanent tenant; that tenant would undoubtedly be the Ti-Cats. I think it is more than a little short-sighted for the major to be calling the Tiger-Cats' participation in the new stadium minor. It also comes off a little smug and arrogant. Not exactly the type of attitude that the mayor of the city should be showing, especially in regards to one of the city's more cherished institutions.

As I said, this is a very heated debate, especially among Tiger-Cat fans. There is currently an 80+ page thread on the Ti-Cat Fan Forum on this topic. You will find, if you decide to check out the thread, that there is a myriad of opinions. There are those that support the west-harbour site, there are those that oppose it, and there are those still who haven't quite decided what they think would be best.

This brings up the question of where I stand. I freely admit that I am part of that third group. I don't think I have enough knowledge of the situation to make an informed decision, nor do I think I am arrogant enough to make such a proclamation. The team and the city employ much more capable people than I to deal with this subject. I will leave it to them to decide the fate of the Pan Am stadium.

That's not to say I don't have opinions on the matter. While I don't like the dictatorial tactics of our city council in attempting to force the west-harbour location on the Tiger-Cats, I understand their need to look at the larger picture of a revitalized downtown core. I also understand team's need to ensure that whichever location the team goes to helps to make the team a profitable venture for owner Bob Young.

For myself, it really doesn't matter where they build a new stadium. Wherever they decide to put it matters little to me. I will make my way to that location to watch the Tabbies play. Where that location will be is currently unknown, but I would hazard a guess that it won't remain that way for much longer.

So that's my take on the whole matter. I'm sure some people will be angry about what I wrote, and some will like it. I'm not claiming to be an expert; I don't have all the information about what is best for all involved. I just went with what I found. If anyone feels the need to blast me or praise me, well, that's what the comment section is for.


  1. Honestly, even though council has voted for the WHF, this can change. Once the Cats present their business model it can change but what I think will happen is that our Mayor gets voted out of office in November and the new mayor actually includes the Cats.

    To be fair, the Cats aren't a minority partner. They have an equal share. 50 mil is from the city's future fund, 50 mil is from the province and 50 mil would be from the Cats.

    The province hasn't said anything about location as it is up to the city to decide. The Pan Am committee doesn't care where it is as they games are 2 weeks long.

    I am a fan of the airport. To me it just makes sense. You have the room to do whatever you want, build whatever you want and actually have concerts.

    Our downtown has been tried to be revitalized with Copps and the Eaton's Centre. Both have failed miserably.

    How can you revitalize a downtown with 10 measly games a year?

    I personally want a place to tailgate. Going to Buffalo is awesome. Pricing is expensive and a pain to get out but it's honestly worth it. You turn a 3 hour football game into a 7 hour party.

    Whatever you do, don't get involved on the forums. There are a few people who think the downtown is the only way to go and they rip your ideas apart, and don't take what you have to say seriously but get offended when you rip the downtown apart.

  2. Thank you for the very detailed comment. I readily admit that my knowledge on this is limited, but it's such a divisive topic that I needed to write about.

    I was unaware that this is a tripartite agreement where $50 million would be coming from each. That makes what the mayor said even more offensive because that would make the Cats an EQUAL partner. I haven't like Eisenberger since I was a kid (I went to school with his son) and I have always found him to be rather arrogant.

    I agree with the tailgating. I haven't been to Buffalo since I was a teen, but the atmosphere was amazing. I can only imagine how awesome that would be with all the crazy Ti-Cat fans. It would be a blast!

  3. I'm not sure how much validity the comment above has regarding the Ti-Cats contribution of funds to the stadium. From what I've read, Hamilton is in fact contributing $60 million dollars to the construction of the stadium, and the Federal and Provincial Governments are contributing an estimated $54 million combined. With the stadium estimated to cost $165 million, that leaves approximately $50 million that needs to be raised through partnerships with the private sector. The Ti-Cats have not confirmed how much, if any, of this amount they are planning to contribute. I would think if they were if fact going to be contributing any large amount, they would have announced something to that effect by now. Their lack of confirmation about how much they plan on contributing makes me think that they have yet to make a final decision. As such, since they haven't made a definitive commitment to the stadium, I don't really think Mayor Eisenburger was out of line in referring to them as "minority partners".
    Also, I'd like to point out that the aforementioned numbers are for a stadium seating 27000 people. A 15000 person stadium, which is all that is required for the Pan-Am games, could be built for $102 million, which is more than covered by the Municipal, Provincial, and Federal funding already guaranteed for the stadium. Essentially, the extra money is only required should a CFL sized stadium be built. In my opinion, I see this as a great opportunity for the Ti-Cats to get in on a stadium that's being built with a substantially smaller investment than would be required otherwise. If they're not interested, alright, we can just build the smaller stadium in the proposed location without worrying about getting additional funding.
    In response to the comments regarding tailgating, I'm a bit confused as to how locating the stadium at the waterfront would render this impossible? The location proposed for the stadium is a 30 acre property currently occupied by abandoned factories, and if you read the speech presented by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce on the issue (available here: you'll see that ample parking is a priority for the stadium. To me that translates to ample space for tailgating.

    Anyhow, that's my two cents.

    In case you're wondering, I got my information from here, here, here, here and here

  4. Thanks for the comment. The one thing I have heard a lot is that the stadium needs the Tiger-Cats just as much as the Tiger-Cats need the stadium. Some comments from the Pan Am Games head about "legacy partner" or something. Meaning the there needs to be a tenant in the building after the games have concluded. The only potential partner are the Tabbies.

    I think this is all a bunch of public relations maneuvering on behalf of both parties. In my personal view I see the mayor as being a little to autocratic, almost daring the Ti-Cats not to participate. But I have a negative view of "Mayor Fred" so I'm probably letting that cloud my objectivity.

    In the end a deal will be made, the Tabbies will have a new stadium and it will be in a location that is mutually beneficial. All we can really do is sit back and wait. But speculating is a lot of fun.