Too late to fix design of 'high school' stadium for Pan Am games

Hamilton city councillors still aren't happy with the design of the new Pan Am stadium, but say there's not much they can do about it now.

Process is mostly out of their hands, they say

Some councillors say they're still disappointed with the Pan Am Stadium design, but their hands are tied. (Artist rendering)

Hamilton city councillors still aren't happy with the "high school" design of the new Pan Am stadium, but say there's not much they can do about it now.

Members of the planning committee looked over the latest plans at a meeting Tuesday. They compared it to a high school stadium, and called the screens covering the underside of the seats as "mosquito netting."

But at this point, the process is out of the council's hands, Coun. Terry Whitehead said.

"I think it's unfortunate that it's the only stadium in the city of Hamilton and it can be compared to a high school stadium," he said. "I just think it falls short."

The $145-million stadium resulted from an agreement between the Pan Am Games and Infrastructure Ontario, the province's construction agency. The city has had little authority in the process, Whitehead said.

There have been benefits to the arrangement — the city would have had to spend $90 million to repair the former Ivor Wynne Stadium, he said. With this arrangement, the city is contributing $45 million and getting a new stadium.

But the process has been a lesson learned, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster, co-chair of the city's stadium subcommittee. If he could do it again, he'd like to see the city work with the Pan Am Games directly.

"Take control of things yourself. Don't turn it over to a Toronto agency," he said.

"We have a good reputation now and we can deliver these big projects on time and on schedule."

Crews have started work on the foundation. Building permits are being issued in three stages — substructure, superstructure and fit and finish. The city's next move is to issue a superstructure permit, which will include the steel structure of the building.

City staff continue to work with the Ontario Sports Solutions consortium on the urban design, and won't issue the superstructure permit until they've come to an agreement, said Steve Robichaud, manager of development planning. Council's comments will be taken into account.

But it's too late for any major changes, Ferguson said. The stadium must be completed by July 2015. If it isn't, there will be penalties, financial and otherwise.

Changes have been made to the plans based on council feedback, senior planner Heather Travis said. Those include changes to masonry, seating and the football-shaped plaza, including more space for public art.

"We're certainly at this point coming close to resolutions," she said.

Coun. Chad Collins says he's still hoping for more major eleventh-hour changes.

"This looks like a high school stadium you might see in the southern states," he said. "For me, there's an element of disappointment. I think people expected more."

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