The city is lending the struggling Canadian Football Hall of Fame at least $50,000 to bail the landmark out of an emergency cash crunch, despite fears over a lack of information on why it’s needed.
Council cast a last-minute vote Wednesday to loan the hall of fame $50,000 to help with salaries and “outstanding debt.” It could turn into a one-time $100,000 grant once council sees the organization’s audited financial statements.
The vote came after Coun. Scott Duvall, who sits on the board, said the hall of fame needs the money by Monday or it risks falling behind on critical payments.
A major sponsor withdrew and attendance has dwindled in recent years, sinking the hall of fame into debt, he said. Last year, it finished with a roughly $5,000 shortfall.
“It’s been a very, very hard year and it’s very critical that they get some type of assistance funding to get them over this hump,” he said.
It’s not the first time the city has bailed out the hall of fame. It loaned $50,000 in 1999, which the hall of fame finished paying off with interest in February 2013, said finance head Mike Zegarac.
The city owns the hall of fame building, which is located next to city hall. The city spends about $130,000 per year to operate and maintain the facility, Zegarac said.
The Canadian Football League contributes money to the hall of fame, which is managed by a board chaired by former Hamilton Tiger-Cat Dave Marler.
The hall of fame’s attendance has spiraled downward ever since city hall was renovated about four years ago.
“There’s hardly anybody going into that building,” Duvall said.
The possible $100,000 grant hinges on the CFL keeping the hall of fame in Hamilton, which Duvall says isn’t an issue. The hall of fame is also looking at relocating, possibly at the new Tim Horton’s Field stadium that is home to the Tiger-Cats.
There are also new potential sponsors poised to step forward, he said.
Several councillors worried they were handing out money based on vague information. Coun. Brad Clark wanted to see audited financial statements.
“I’m surprised we’re discussing it without seeing all that information first,” he said.