Guarantee a stadium completion date, city tells province

The city has sent a desperate letter to the premier and the head of Infrastructure Ontario (IO) warning that the Pan Am Games soccer matches are in jeopardy if the stadium isn't finished now.

ONSS said it expects to receive substantial completion status on May 8

Bruce Gray, left, a vice-president with Infrastructure Ontario, and David Kirkland from Ontario Sports Solutions listen as Pan Am subcommittee members vent their frustration with the delay finishing Tim Horton's Field. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city has sent a desperate letter to the premier and the head of Infrastructure Ontario (IO)  demanding the province provide a "firm date" for the completion of Hamilton's Pan Am stadium.

The letter warns that the 2015 Pan Am Games soccer matches to be held in the city are in jeopardy if the stadium isn't finished now.

Under current conditions, Tim Horton's Field won't reach substantial completion until June, says a letter from Mayor Fred Eisenberger to Kathleen Wynne, IO president Bert Clark and three Ontario ministers. By that time, the project will be a year overdue.

The stadium is supposed to host the Pan Am soccer games from July 10 to 27. The city has "grave concern" that the stadium won't be done, the letter says.

"The city's ability to host the Pan Am Games soccer matches in the new stadium is…in jeopardy," says the letter, which city staff sent Monday afternoon. 

"The Pan Am Games are at risk," said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who called the delay "unconscionable." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"We need to rely on a firm date for delivery to make the Hamilton stadium a success."

IO is overseeing the project. It hired Ontario Sports Solutions (ONSS), a construction consortium, to build the $145-million stadium. Both parties fielded questions at a Pan Am subcommittee meeting on Monday.

ONSS said at the meeting that it expects to receive substantial completion status on May 8, but it's still not sure the work will actually be done by then. And it will take weeks for city inspectors to make sure the stadium is finished according to the contract. When that's done, the city takes over. 

The delay has already cost numerous organizations. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats played most of their 2014 season at McMaster University. April and early May events have been cancelled, and two high-profile May ones, including an international soccer match, are in danger.

Inhabitable, but not done

The stadium has a full occupancy permit, Bruce Gray, IO vice-president, said on Monday. But there are some outstanding issues. Among them: an estimated 700 seats that have insufficient views because crews installed solid panels that should have been glazed. IO is verifying how many seats are still impacted.

The stadium also won't have some furniture — tables and chairs, Gray said — until June.

But that last point doesn't mean the stadium isn't finished, IO said.

"From our perspective, anyone suggesting that furniture delivery equates to an incomplete stadium is choosing to ignore all the successful events hosted at the stadium last year," it said in a statement after the meeting.

The Pan Am Games are now at risk. We simply can't accept that embarrassment.- Coun. Lloyd Ferguson

There have been other reasons for delays. ONSS cited weather and issues with a subcontractor last year. There were also grouting problems in the stands, and water leaks damaged drywall.

Some local union heads also say there were unusual changes to the steel structure midway through construction, although both the city and the builders say this wasn't a problem. Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, subcommittee chair and construction industry veteran, blames the lack of daily penalties in the contract.

David Kirkland from ONSS wouldn't shed any more light on why the stadium is late. Those are "commercial issues" dealing with money and aren't public right now, he said.

"I'm not prepared to get into it at this point."

'I don't want to think about it'

Ferguson didn't hide his frustration. He's the one who moved sending the letter.

"I don't want to think about it," he said of the possible worst case scenario.

"The Pan Am Games are now at risk. We simply can't accept that embarrassment. We need a firm date from the chair of the (IO) board and we need some confidence we won't be embarrassed before the world."

The letter is the strongest action the city can take right now. It contributed $45 million to the stadium but the province was in charge of the design and build.

The stadium hosted events last year. The Ticats played the Labour Day Classic there and hosted a Keith Urban concert.

That's between ONSS and the Ticats, said city spokesperson Mike Kirkopoulos. The cancelled events for April and May were booked through the city with the expectation that the city would own the stadium.

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