City staff is working with the team designing the new Pan Am stadium to make sure the facility meets its design standards.
Members of the Ontario Sports Solutions consortium are meeting with staff “all the time” to alleviate concerns, said Robert Johnston, designer with the Cannon Group.
These concerns include having a public-friendly civic square, a unique aesthetic and enough of a covering behind the stands that the neighbourhood isn't exposed to beams and the rough underside of the seating.
Those were among the concerns councillors brought up during a city planning committee meeting Tuesday, when Johnston showed the latest renderings of the new Pan Am stadium, scheduled to replace Ivor Wynne in its east-end location in July 2014.
The committee heard that the space behind the stands will be masonry at the base, and screens extending over a large portion of the sides of the mostly outdoor stadium.
This will produce a “light and airy” feeling, and the screens can be changed depending on the event being hosted, Johnston said after his presentation to the committee.
Large solid walls would have overpowered the residential neighbourhood, he said.
The screening “produces the effect of hiding all the structure, but it's light and airy, so it's more festive,” Johnston said.
Councillors had plenty of questions about the $147.5-million stadium, of which the city is paying 40 per cent. The stadium will host 32 men's and women's soccer games for the 2015 Pan Am games, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats starting with the 2014 CFL season.
The new stadium will seat about 24,000 compared to the current 29,000 at Ivor Wynne. The stadium will have space for 40,000 seats for when Hamilton hosts the Grey Cup, but the remainder will have to be rented and brought in, Johnston told them.
That cost will not be included in the cost to build the stadium, said Neil Vohrah, who works in design and compliance with Ontario Sports Solutions. Vohrah said afterward he did not have an estimate of how much that might cost.
The designers are working from project specific output specifications (PSOS) provided by the city. Ontario Sports Solutions has applied for a demolition permit for Ivor Wynne, Vohrah said.
The city will not issue a building permit until its specifications are met, said Steve Robichaud, Hamilton's manager of development planning.
Councillors asked several other questions about the future stadium, such as whether the private lounges would have indoor seating. People in private lounges will have to sit outside to have a full view of the game, Johnston said.
Councillors also asked about the south civic plaza, which will be a mixture of grass and pavement and include space for a walk of fame. There will also be space for a farmer's market and two parkettes. The main entrance to the stadium will be off Cannon Street.
Councillors will see the stadium plans again. But because council has delegated authority to staff to give final approval on the design, it can only provide feedback, not vote on changes, said Tim McCabe, general manager of planning and economic development.
Coun. Lloyd Ferguson objected to council's lack of power in this situation.
“This is one of the biggest investments this city's going to make,” he said. “We've been stonewalled.”
While the plans shown Tuesday were “better than I thought it was going to be,” Ferguson said, “this is not approving the reconstruction of a side street or a McDonalds. This is a fricking stadium.”
Coun. Brad Clark echoed those concerns.
“I'm really frustrated,” he said. “I've been frustrated from day one on this file.”
McCabe said that if council takes serious exception to the final plan, “it will be taken into account.”