The province is encouraging the city of Hamilton to come up with a contingency plan in case the Pan Am stadium isn’t finished on time. But the chair of the committee overseeing the project says it’s nothing to worry about.
In a Feb. 14 letter to city manager Chris Murray, John McKendrick of Infrastructure Ontario said he would “strongly recommend” that the city and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats come up with a contingency plan. The stadium construction is already two weeks behind, and crews are working double shifts to catch up.
But Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the Pan Am subcommittee, isn’t worried. Contingency plans are normal.
“It’s just good business to do that,” he said. “You should have contingency plans ready.”
There’s a lot at stake for local taxpayers in the $147.5-million Tim Hortons Field project. The city is contributing $54 million, with the rest funded by the province.
The 22,500-seat stadium will host 32 soccer games for the 2015 Pan Am Games, and is the future home of the Tiger-Cats.
The project has seen road bumps. In December, the Kitchener-Waterloo masonry company hired to do the brickwork went into receivership. The project has also been dogged by persistent rumours, including the notion that the footings are on unstable soil, which contractor Kenaidan Contracting Ltd. dismissed last month.
The company is confident the stadium will be completed by June 30, wrote McKendrick, executive vice-president and group head of major projects at Infrastructure Ontario.
The company has said the stadium will be 95 per cent complete by that date.
But even with that commitment, “I strongly recommend that the City of Hamilton communicate with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to contemplate a contingency plan in the event that Substantial Completion of the Stadium is delayed,” he wrote.
“It is in the City’s best interests in any claim associated with any delay that mitigation strategies were contemplated early.”
Infrastructure Ontario told CBC Hamilton on Thursday that the letter is part of the usual due diligence process.
"Ontario Sports Solutions are confident they will meet the June 30, 2014 completion date in accordance with the project agreement," Terence Foran, project communications adviser, said in an email.
If the city loses money over the project delay, it will be reimbursed. Coun. Sam Merulla said he’s not worried about it for that reason.
“It’s not our project, and the fact that we’re protected from indemnification is something that from my perspective is a good thing,” he said. “The local taxpayer is not at risk.”
The project fell about two weeks behind after a late-December ice storm. Since early February, crews have been working double shifts to meet the June 30 deadline.
Ferguson, who has a construction background, thinks it will be tight.
“When I look at it and look at what they have left to do, it’s going to be close.”