RE: Proposing to build a 5,500 to 6,000 seat soccer stadium at West Harbor – Could we accomplish the same at 75 Balsam Avenue North?
I wanted to take a moment, to touch on the conversations over the past few days, about a scalable stadium option for West Harbor.
Although I am not completely onboard with the thought of a 6,000 seat scalable West Harbor stadium, I do like that the plan would clean up the harbor and still ensure that Hamilton could secure the $70M in Federal and Provincial government funding, being offered for a Pan American Games facility in Hamilton.
Although there are other 5-6,000 seat facilities in Hamilton (the 5,000 seat Brian Timmis Stadium next to Ivor Wynne for one), how many of them are actually public use facilities? If the Harbor stadium took over for Ivor Wynne’s other uses, I do see a substantial benefit in that.
I would however, rather see a 6,000 seat facility replace Ivor Wynne Stadium; continuing 80 years of sports history, and the return of a Civic Stadium type facility. Track, field, and all.
I believe we can leave lasting legacy’s both in the Harbor and at 75 Balsam, with a tweak to these recent suggestions. The question is, can we put together a plan for 75 Balsam by February 1st?
The location of the Veledrome has not been determined yet, therefore by placing this venue in the Harbor instead of a stadium, we accomplish what a stadium of any size was supposed to achieve there. We don’t need a plan for the Veledrome for February 1st, but stating publically that West Harbor is now our preferred location, finally seals a victory for West Harbor supporters, and gives them the peace of mind in knowing that their community is going to get a huge boost to their Setting Sail plan, and a beautiful fixture that hadn’t been included in that original vision included in the design.
As for the Ivor Wynne Stadium location, the city already owns the land. It’s already serviced. There was a previous order of magnitude estimate requested back in February of 2009, and BTY Group projected the costs to demolish part of it and repair/upgrade the rest. Three weeks is surely enough time to modify this report, based on rough estimates for a 6,000 seat stadium.
The benefit to this proposal, is that we really don’t take the Tiger-Cats out of the equation yet per say. They will still play out the 2011 season, but they are now left with one choice. A choice they once said was up to the city. ‘Build new or upgrade Ivor Wynne. It’s not up to us (the Tiger-Cats), to decide. We just need some of our needs addressed’. Or something to that affect.
If in our February 1st proposal to HostCo, we state that the desire is to demolish Ivor Wynne Stadium, and build a non-scalable 6,000 seat stadium on the 75 Balsam Avenue grounds, with construction commencing after the 2011 CFL season, we also request that the full $70M be made available until the closing of the 2011 season; incase the Tiger-Cats decide that in light of the money available for a stadium project on Balsam, that they would re-consider extending their lease, if the Stadium was upgraded using those funds. If a lease extension past 2011 is not requested by the Tiger-Cats, any additional funds leftover from the cost of the new Civic Stadium on Balsam, could be freed up to improve on the Veledrome, or to spread across other projects under the HostCo umbrella.
I recently sent a letter to council, outlining the many options that I believe exist, to continue to make Ivor Wynne work as a CFL stadium, and I truly feel faced with no other options, that the current owner of the Cats, a new owner, or even a private citizenship group, could make the finances work on Balsam.
HostCo re-iterated that the location of our stadium is our choice, and that the Tiger-Cats involvement is not required for there to be a legacy tenant for a smaller scale stadium. Those government funds are ours (Hamilton’s) for the taking.
Either way, we, should jump on this opportunity.
If there is a need for a specific date for construction to commence, we could start by demolishing Brian Timmis, pave it over, and allow the Tiger-Cats to see how an additional 1,000 parking spots on approximately 160,000 sq ft of property, could immediately help their business case. Then, what could be done with the rest of the $70 million, should parking revenue from the old Brian Timmis Stadium change the Tiger-Cats perspective of Ivor Wynne Stadium’s worth?
A small-scale, non-scalable stadium plan at IWS would both:
1.Preserve the sports legacy at 75 Balsam.
2.Cost would seemingly, be considerably less than a scalable one in the Harbor
3.It would also address the removal costs of the old stadium, and ensure Ivor Wynne doesn’t stand empty and rotting for many years
4.If the Cats somehow chose to play ball with us after we secure our $70M form the feds (which I assume would nix the Aldershot plan), the money can go to upgrades to Ivor Wynne instead of a 6,000 seat stadium. Make sure our proposal states that should the Cats decide to swat at our ball of yarn, we would exercise the option to extend their lease beyond 2011.
In the meantime, if the Board of Education chooses to close Parkview High School on Balsam, we could ask them to put a hold on a sale, to leave it open as an option for a multi-level parking garage, should the Tiger-Cats show interest in working with Ivor Wynne.
If the powers that be don’t see Ivor Wynne as a future home of professional sports, IWS is the most centrally accessible stadium for a community venue. It already serves this purpose very well. Transit wise, there are few locations in this city like it.
Ask the community that currently uses Ivor Wynne Stadium, what they think. Which location, West Harbor, 75 Balsam, or a site that has not been discussed, would benefit more from a community accessible stadium? Ivor Wynne currently is used close to 200 times a year. I think those numbers alone, prove 75 Balsam Avenue North, is a great location for community sports. There is also a community (and historic) pool on the adjacent grounds, a hockey Arena, baseball diamonds, and not to mention Scott Park High School is now an International Arts College. How can all of these things, come together with a community stadium?
There is a lot of land lining Balsam Avenue, with multiple access points. The game has changed, as should how we look at securing those government funds, and how those funds can provide the best possible legacy for our city.
A brief summary of why Ivor Wynne should live on as the future of Canadian Football in Hamilton:
1.Ivor Wynne Stadium has dugouts for their players. What other football stadium in North America has that?
2.The padded walls that line the narrow sidelines, have been compared to a feature rivaling the Green Monster at Fenway Park.
3.It has perhaps the greatest site lines in the game, and is renowned across the nation for the overall game watching experience. It’s a great place to watch football.
4.Not only is the stadium itself a historic piece of Hamilton at 60 years old, the grounds themselves have been home to sporting events since we hosted the Commonwealth Games back in 1930.
5.It’s already a sports hub with Scott Park Arena across the street, as well as three baseball diamonds, not to mention Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool which was also built as part of the 1930 Commonwealth Games.
6.We have been looking to incorporate the arts as part of the stadium district in the West Harbor, but if The Pearl Company can be saved, the revival of Ottawa Street, the Gage Park Festivals and a new Festivals, and with the introduction of an International Arts College across the street from Ivor Wynne, sports and the arts are already closely tied at 75 Balsam.
7.Parking on neighbors lawns, the closeness of the houses to the stadium on three sides of it, are actually features that make it unique from any venue I have ever visited. I believe those features to ones to cherish; not frown upon.
8.Local churches with 200-300 car lots also benefit from game-day events, by offering parking for Ivor Wynne’s guests every home game. That money goes to good causes. Ivor Wynne contributes to the community in so many ways, and is literally a part of it.
9.We have enjoyed one of the best tailgating experiences at Scott Park field for many years. The organizers and the city have a great relationship and the grounds are spotless immediately following the tailgate party. Compare Ivor Wynne’s game-day experience to places like Orchard Park where the Bills play, and you will quickly see that beyond all the ‘Argo’s Suck’ and ‘oskee wee wee’ chants, football in Hamilton is actually a ‘clean’, respectable experience.
10. This map http://www.saveivorwynnestadium.com/iwsmap.pdf shows just how accessible Ivor Wynne is via both public transit and automobiles, with quick access to and from the 403/QEW, and the Red Hill Parkway, via Gage and Sherman Avenues, and the Burlington Street throughway. It would also be on the proposed LRT and Hamilton/Niagara GO routes.
11. Close proximity to downtown via transit (and future transit), car, or a $10 cab ride.
12. Three very unique views of Hamilton from within the stadium. First, the breathtaking backdrop of the escarpment that towers above the press boxes as seen from the north/east endzone stands. Second, the many lights of downtown as seen looking over Tiger-Vision, also from the north and east endzone stands. Third, the factories and smokestacks that have fed many generations of our families from the south and east endzone stands. So many images of what make Hamilton beautiful and unique, can be seen peering out into the warm summers skies from Ivor Wynne Stadium.
13. Many repairs and upgrades recently, have turned the image of Ivor Wynne around, from painting the north stands and washrooms and many other areas of the stadium, to replacing all the stairs leading into the stands, and of course Tiger-Vision itself.
14. The engineers said if we replace the south stands for a cost of approximately $20M in today’s dollars, there is no reason Ivor Wynne couldn’t last another 45 years.
15. Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago are proof of the worth of preserving history and how finding a balance between history and modern amenities, attracts not just local fans, but people from across the nation. How can there not be worth, in a Fenway/Wrigley North type of project.
16. Ivor Wynne can hold concerts. Two major events have been approved over the past 8 years to be held there, but council did not consent to the funds to run those events. We also know that with Darien Lake south of the border and Molson Ampitheatre in Toronto, an outside venue in Hamilton would not attract the number of events we have been using as a selling feature to justify the need to move our stadium away from a residential neighborhood. We also know that Copps is already under-utilized so why would we build a new facility, with plans to attract events away from our Colliseum? People have dreamed to host events other than sports at Ivor Wynne, and there is no reason we could not look to attract one or two shows a year. Two concerts would bring in twice what a show at Copps would.
17. There have been talks about a Heritage Classic AHL game, and Ivor Wynne being host to such an event. We did host a charity game that NHL players took part in during the lockout season at Ivor Wynne. I attended that game. It was wet, but a lot of fun. Ivor Wynne is actually part of NHL history, and would be a great place for future outdoor hockey events.
19. Ivor Wynne is already expandable. There is no reason Ivor Wynne could not be upgraded to seat 45,000 permanent seats to make it suitable for Grey Cups. It’s awkward to add 15,000 temporary seats to the west endzone now with Tiger-Vision. Our attractive new modern-day amenity, actually takes away from our ability to host Grey Cups. It was also stated that the south stands could bear the weight of more press boxes. With $70M from the Feds and $45M from the Future Fund, there is a heck of a lot we could do with Ivor Wynne. Much more than we could accomplish by building a new, utilitarian, 22,000 seat stadium. 8,000 seats less than we already have, with zero of the character our historic building has.
Perhaps the reason why no other location we have looked at during this Pan Am Stadium process works for all parties, is because the best location is where our stadium already is. In trying to escape our steel town/lunch bucket/parking on peoples lawns image, we are trying to be something we are not. Many of those factories and even steel production, are here to stay for many more years. We need to embrace who we are – our history, and use it to our benefit.
Save Ivor Wynne Stadium.
A Letter to the Editor from Saturday's Spec: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/editorial/article/318930--stadium-search-passed-on-history