Hamilton city council has narrowly approved a 20-year stadium lease deal with the Tiger-Cats, capping off years of negotiations between the city and the CFL franchise.
The deal passed by a 9-7 margin during an in-camera meeting Wednesday night.
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City manager Chris Murray told CBC Hamilton that the deal is better for both the team and taxpayers.
“On the old agreement, we were losing money every time the team played football,” he said, adding the old deal wasn’t sustainable for the team either.
Now, the city will “break even” on the lease, and “from a Ticat standpoint, it puts them in a much better sustainability situation,” he said.
“The bottom line is the Ticats will be here for quite some time.”
The deal is worth $750,000 a year for the city for the field's naming rights, $450,000 for the team's rent and prospective $150,000 if a professional soccer team comes to Hamilton.
It’s taken over two years for the city and the Ticats to come to an agreement on the lease. Earlier this month, councillors were demanding changes to a proposed lease agreement.
“We’ve walked through the sticking point as approved by council,” Murray said. “Now we’re working through all the arrangements."
Ticat president Scott Mitchell told CBC Hamilton that the process took a while because the arrangement was so complex. "Anytime there are a lot of moving parts, there needs to be a lot of attention to detail," he said.
Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek was among the seven who voted against the agreement. When the city is contributing $54 million to the new $147.5-million Tim Hortons Field, break even isn't good enough, he said.
Ticats can veto events that conflict with practices
"Fundamentally, it was not a good deal for taxpayers," he said. And with more staff being added to the stadium — as per the new agreement — Clark doubts the city will end up breaking even.
Clark also had an issue with the section that gives the Ticats the ability to veto any events that conflict with team practices. With that, "we may never be able to bring in a concert," he said.
Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster had the same sticking point. The city pushed for a clause that would see the Ticats practising somewhere else if the city needs the stadium, with the city providing transportation and the field, Ferguson said.
"Taxpayers put $50 million into the facility. It should be the taxpayers who decide the scheduling, not the tenants," he said.
The city will live with the agreement. "We have to now," he said. "But there's still a lot of bitterness."
$1 million per missed game
The new agreement includes a clause that says the city has to pay the Ticats $1 million for each home game missed because of a delay in constructing the new stadium.
But Murray says potential delays weren't holding up the agreement.
Infrastructure Ontario recommended a football contingency plan for the field in case the stadium doesn’t open on time in a letter from executive vice-president John McKendrick to Murray.
Crews also ended up working double time on the stadium to make up for a two-week delay caused in part by major ice storm and problems with a masonry company.
“No one has confirmed any construction delay,” Murray said. “We’re assuming the stadium is on time unless we hear otherwise.”
Mitchell says the team is doing what it can to make sure it mitigates any problems that could pop up from construction delays, like hosting the Ticats home pre-season game at McMaster's Ron Joyce Stadium in June.
The new 22,500-seat Tim Horton's Field will host 32 soccer games for the 2015 Pan Am Games.