Stadium fiasco threatens ‘I told you so’
The Hamilton Spectator
May 18, 2010
When I first arrived back in Hamilton at CHML 5 years ago, I remember hearing a negativity that almost seemed to be holding the city back.
It has since changed for the better; and now I often relish in how the city has long turned the corner.
But I’ll never forget the mantra one friend used to repeat many times and one I have received in many emails: “Leave it to Hamilton. They’ll screw it up!”
I, being more positive and perhaps a bit naive, would never buy into losing. I just find it boring. It’s easy.
But that phrase came back to haunt me when Bob Young owner (or caretaker) of your Hamilton Tiger-Cats, announced he did not support the west harbour stadium site and the team could lose $7 million a year at that location.
It was like a bomb went off in the harbour, resonating across the city and country.
Leaving a stink that was sure to last longer than any smog day alert.
Perhaps weeks, months and even a lifetime.
This after the city was moving full steam ahead on the west harbour site, and is in the process of buying up peoples homes.
The citizenry was left stunned.
All I could hear was that friend saying,” See Scott, I told you. Leave it to Hamilton…”.
The city has been clear for months where its preferred stadium site was.
The Tiger-Cats are concerned over location with issues centred on parking, access and visibility for naming rights. But it had said it would work with the city on a site and contribute funds.
What happened? Why now? Why not back when the site was originally announced?
Bob Young came on my CHML radio show after his announcement and the only real clear point from that was the west harbour site was not suitable and more research had to be done on other sites.
Some are left wondering, why was all this not done earlier? How much has been spent on the west harbour plan to date?
Young said there had been no collaboration between the team and the city; while the mayor said Ticat representatives have been at all of the meetings.
So in my opinion, one of two things must be happening. The Cats are talking and no one at the city is listening; or the Cats want the stadium their way if they are going to throw money into the kitty.
There are some who want a different plan but the only real plan, it seems, is the city’s. The rest are all prospects with no real verification. Even the city’s plan has lots of unanswered concerns.
Fortunately both sides have agreed to a mediator to try to resolve the issue. It sounds more and more like a labour dispute, doesn’t it?
Another positive note. This past Saturday morning the city held a Pan Am Games Community Engagement Session at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. I was honoured to be asked by the mayor’s office to be moderator. This is one of many public forums the city is using to get the public engaged.
I wondered, can I stay objective and keep my mouth shut while directing traffic through this political land mind? This could get ugly.
I didn’t have to. The Q&A was well thought out and presented on both sides.
In an about-face, the biggest surprise and relief was Scott Mitchell, president of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Mayor Fred Eisenberger presenting their issues as if there wasn’t even a problem. All warm and fuzzy.
“We’ll work together!” they rejoiced.
Because in the end, it’s about the city, right?
My, how things have changed in a week?
Things to consider:
You’d be hard pressed to find a city any where in the world with a water front, that cannot see the benefits of reclaiming it as Hamilton wants and is doing. It’s the future. But the Ticats’ concerns are valid and must be addressed.
The stadium must be feasible, and what’s best for the city. That includes successful tenants.
Note to all involved.
Everyone is watching closely. Please don’t give my friend another opportunity to bark at me, “It’s Hamilton, I told you so!”
Take the best of both worlds and make it work
It’s time to shine, not stink.
The Scott Thompson Show airs weekdays 4-6pm on News/Talk 900 CHML.
Visit his website at www.ScottThompsonTalk.com