Bottom line: We ‘settled’ for Ivor Wynne
The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Now that we’ve had a week to let the Ivor Wynne stadium reno dust settle, how do you feel about the whole exercise?
Most people, obviously, have had enough.
However, in order to celebrate Hamilton’s achievement, we must first take stock of what we have, what we’ve learned, what it has cost us and how to make sure it never happens again.
What played out in the media over the last year is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actions or inactions of Hamilton council, while the ambitious city staff does most of the work.
What I fear in all of this is that when Hamiltonians are enjoying opening day at the newly renovated Ivor Wynne, they’ll have forgotten what got us to that point and what it could have been.
If the Ticats and city council had enjoyed a solid working relationship from the beginning, could they have attracted the private investment needed to build a new legacy stadium we all could have been proud of?
How much private investment would it have taken to turn our $152 million reno into what we had all originally dreamed of in a city-building location?
When you think of how far this deal came in the dying hours, it was certainly possible in the grand scheme of things.
But would you invest in a project when the two main partners not only didn’t see eye to eye, but didn’t have a working relationship?
Here is what we must not forget:
• The new Ivor Wynne will not offer much more than the old when it comes to city-building and future development;
• Many problems with the old stadium will be inherited by the new one, such as lack of highway access and parking. This was a major stumbling block during negotiations. So much for the driveway-to-driveway experience;
• Out-of-towners don’t know how to get to, and don’t want to venture to, the old pit. That stunts growth of a regional fan base;
• Lack of exposure at the location lowers naming rights revenue;
• Transit options are limited;
• There are limited entertainment options for the site, including likely no concerts.
And let’s not forget the embarrassment this city has endured which certainly hasn’t helped our image.
For the money being spent, I think most Hamiltonians would have rather seen any one of the other sites chosen over Ivor Wynne.
But it is what it is and we have to salvage what we have. Most importantly, we must remember those who got us into this mess in order to move forward and make the best of a bad situation.
And Hamilton will, as that’s what it has had to do since it lost real leadership from its city council years ago.
I asked Mayor Bob Bratina on CHML, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again?
His answer was “transparency.”
Let’s hope the shades stay up at city hall, although transparency is tough without trust and cohesiveness.
Tuck it all in your ticket pack so you remember for opening day and the next election.
Don’t forget Hamilton still gets a “new” stadium, some Pan Am Games events with accompanying funding, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a sport legacy for amateur athletics and maybe even soccer.
Certainly not the big prize, but hopefully a big lesson learned.
We’ll find out next election day.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays noon-3 p.m. on News/Talk 900 CHML. ScottThompsontalk.com