Alright, here’s my take.
As far as the convention centre and Hamilton place is concerned, both appear to be profitable, both don’t require major renovations yet but will need them soon, keep it in mind an us as a city should start budgeting for upgrading it, especially so it can be used to host Grey Cup events and attract more business. Just keep in mind, I don’t think any Grey Cup festival can really be had anywhere but James St N. like supercrawl. There’s no other place in the city where you have restaurants, shops, amenities and the ability to close up a street apart from it.
As far as the arena, lets face it, the NHL dream is dead. The second Quebec City built the Videotron Centre that was the final nail in the coffin. It’s doubtful the NHL even wants to expand into Canada at this time, and if they do, they have a modern facility in Quebec City waiting in the wings. Add the lack of an owner, the proximity to the Leafs and Sabres, no federal or province assistance forthcoming on such a build and that the facility would require at minimum 250 million (likely far more) to get up the NHL standards in today’s money, that’s way too much money for the city to even consider, just to keep chasing the dream.
So where does that leave us? Let’s look at all the facts.
- We have an OHL team, with a proven dedicated owner who is willing to front half the build cost of a new arena but won’t go it alone, and is getting tired with the status quo.
- We have an ageing facility that has some viability concerns for said owner, currently has some bidding on rights to run it, can attract some major concerts and shows (although not at the level as major Toronto venues) albeit not at a huge short-term profit to the city, and whose renovation will be a major expense that will soon be required.
- A climate and budget in city hall that wants to save money and had a very rocky go on it’s last major facility build
- A report in hand that says it will cost $68 million for a partial upgrade for modern boxes and concessions to the lower bowl, and unclear if further hockey specific renovations would also be needed
- Two major ballparks numbers on recently built arenas. The 5,300 seat Meridian Centre that comes in at $53 million in today’s dollars and the 9,000 seat Budweiser Gardens that would come at the cost of $69 million in today’s dollars.
I think the answer as to what should be done should be obvious, sell the facility to the highest bidder and use that money to build a top of the line OHL arena for a tenant that wants to pay half the cost, and work into the deal that part of that cost is that the team has a locked in lease for a long period of time. The sheer volume of money you are going to need to spend to renovate Copps is literally twice what you will have to spend to build a new arena right now.
Find the money somehow to build a new facility now while you have an owner who will put up the costs. From my understanding, ice time is at a premium for the city right now, so fundamentally at worst you are building an overpriced arena that will find use and can still be used for other events that has a stable prime tenant.
As far as where you build this facility? I think that depends on the fate of Copps and if you plan to build some kind of concert venue or something at the West Harbour. I think Limeridge Mall is ideal, because then you can turn it into a convention venue too and add hotels there and have parking, and the mall is indeed looking at expanding into office facilities and residents. I think most other spots have pros and cons that could make them work. Downtown, West Harbour, McMaster U., McMaster Innovation Park, but I think the Airport, Confederation Park, the top of the Red Hill and near Tim Horton’s Field are all bit dicey, as you still have the issue of limited economic spinoff, home/park removal, access issues and lost land tax revenue.