There’s an $89-million carrot dangling in front of Ontario Sports Solutions (OSS) to finish the Pan Am stadium as quickly as possible, and Infrastructure Ontario (IO) says it plans to make sure the consortium bites.

IO is holding back $89 million until Tim Horton’s Field is completed, which means OSS has to borrow from lines of credit and find other ways to cover the remaining costs to finish the stadium, said John McKendrick, executive vice-president of IO.

'You want (OSS) to suffer a financial hit as a result of not being done on time, and he’s suffering that now.' - John McKendrick, executive vice-president of IO

The agreement all along was to withhold a portion of the $119-million payment pending completion, McKendrick said. But the stadium was due to be ready by June 30, and won’t be finished until the fall. That means that in the meantime, OSS will have to find money from other sources to finish.

“You want (OSS) to suffer a financial hit as a result of not being done on time, and he’s suffering that now,” McKendrick said after a city hall Pan Am subcommittee meeting on Tuesday.

“He has to finance all that money. He has to borrow it. He’s not getting paid on it. He won’t get paid on it until he finishes.”

Since the beginning of the year, OSS and IO have said construction on the $145-million stadium was between two and six weeks behind, citing a winter ice storm and problems with subcontractors.

Builders estimated the stadium would be finished enough to host the first Hamilton Tiger-Cats home game on July 26. But the Tiger-Cats will now play the July 26 and 31 home games at McMaster University, a significantly smaller stadium, and miss out on being broadcast on ESPN’s main network.

IO, OSS and other parties will meet on July 31 to determine if the stadium will be sufficiently completed for the Aug. 16 game to be played there.

OSS now estimates the stadium will not be substantially completed until weeks before the end of the CFL season.

Under traditional contracts, construction companies are paid monthly based on how much of the project is completed, McKendrick said. Under this one, most of the money is held back until the project is finished.

Without traditional monthly progress payments, McKendrick said, “I think he’s feeling the pressure.”

About 580 workers on site each day

The “he” in question on Tuesday was Jean-Louis Fuz of Bouygues Canada, part of the OSS consortium.

Fuz told councillors that about 580 workers are working on the stadium each day. He didn’t anticipate any surprises from this point onward.

“We don’t have specific technical issues,” he said. “It is a matter of finishing the job.”

The project remains on budget, McKendrick said. And there is no legal action at this point.

“We are going to press and push every day to know that progress is being made to get the job done."

Hamiltonians not negative, mayor says

When the project is finished, said Ticats president Glenn Gibson, it will be a “remarkable stadium with long-term benefits to the community.”

Hamiltonians aren’t negative about the project, Mayor Bob Bratina said.

In talking to residents, he said, he’s not hearing “as much disappointment and discouragement as continued excitement for the facility.”

Under the agreement, OSS will pay the Ticats $1 million for each missed home game.

"If there is litigation surrounding this dispute," legal expert Louis Frapporti told CBC Hamilton, "it could drag on for years."