Copps, Hamilton Place and convention centre go to 3 bidders

Hamilton can expect more savings, downtown revitalization and bigger name acts in the future, say the companies chosen to run the city's major downtown entertainment facilities.

Carmen's and Global Spectrum/Live Nation promise more acts, better savings

PJ and Peter Mercanti, the father-and-son team at Carmen's Inc., congratulate each other after Hamilton's general issues committee voted to negotiate with the company to manage the Hamilton Convention Centre. Global Spectrum/Live Nation won the bid to run Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton can expect more savings for taxpayers, downtown revitalization and bigger name acts in the future, say the companies chosen to run the city's major downtown entertainment facilities.

The city's general issues committee voted Tuesday to negotiate with Global Spectrum/Live Nation to run Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place, and local company Carmen's Inc. to operate the convention centre.

In addition to $1 million in savings in the first year, Carmen's plans to "bring life back into the downtown" with its convention centre and the 44-storey hotel it plans to build, president PJ Mercanti said.

"We look forward to saving the taxpayers of Hamilton a lot of money, and we look forward to using the convention centre opportunity as a catalyst to revitalize downtown," he said.

Copps, Hamilton Place and the convention centre are currently operated by Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI), which the city subsizes with about $1.3 million a year.

City staff estimate that choosing Global Spectrum/Live Nation and Carmen's will save $6.84 million over the next five years.

When Carmen's bid to run the convention centre, it also proposed a 440-room hotel downtown, which would include 150 condo units and three restaurants. The company has chosen five possible locations for the development, said chair Peter Mercanti. 

What happens next

  1. Oct. 10 - The decision will get final approval at a council meeting.
  2. October to December 2012 - Negotiation of operating agreements.
  3. January 2013 - Council will approve the operating agreements.
  4. January to April 2013 - Transition period.
  5. April 1, 2013 - New owners take control of the facilties.

"It will happen and it will be something the city can be proud of," he said.

"We don't have to take a back seat to Toronto or Montreal or any place. We will carry through with a project that will reshape and revitalize what Hamilton should be."

Carmen's has been in business for nearly 40 years. Global Spectrum manages venues worldwide. Its parent company, Comcast Spectacor, also owns the Philadelphia Flyers.

Live Nation is a live entertainment company whose properties include Live Nation Concerts and Ticketmaster.com.

Frank Russo from Global Spectrum speaks to reporters. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Global Spectrum has been interested in Hamilton for a long time, said Frank Russo, senior vice-president of business development and client relations.

"It's a major Canadian city, a major coliseum, and a great opportunity to expand our business," he said. "We've had it on our target list."

There will be larger crowds at hockey games and possibly basketball at the coliseum, Russo said. The agreement will also accommodate a potential future NHL team, but it won't be owned by Comcast Spectacor as the same company cannot own two teams.

"We've never overplayed that card," he said. "We said we'd help this city to put together the best plan we could to attract an owner and attract the league's attention."

Carmen's and Global Spectrum/Live Nation cost the city the least in terms of operating and capital costs, said the city report.

SMG and Forum Equity, along with local partner Sonic Unyon, also bid to manage the properties.