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Why has the Tim Horton's Field stadium taken so long?

The contractor has blamed weather and issues with subcontractors for the reason Tim Horton's Field is 10 months late. But one city councillor says it's late because from the contractor's perspective, there's no reason not to be.
The contractor building Hamilton's Tim Horton's Field will apply for a substantial completion designation "imminently," says Infrastructure Ontario. But there are mixed views on why the project is 10 months overdue. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images/File)

He's heard weather issues, and subcontractor issues, and scheduling issues. But the executive vice-president of Infrastructure Ontario says even he's not sure why the Hamilton stadium project is taking so long.

John McKendrick of IO says the construction consortium his organization hired, Ontario Sports Solutions (ONSS), appeared to "underestimate the risks" involved with building the $145-million Tim Horton's Field. The stadium will host the soccer games for the 2015 Pan Am Games in July, and by the time it's finished in May, it will be 11 months overdue.

ONSS is about to apply for substantial completion for the fourth time. The application is "imminent," McKendrick said.

Once the application is received, an independent consultant will take about 10 days to inspect it. The city will spend another month looking at the stadium. Then IO will hand Tim Horton's Field over to the city.

As for the delay, IO and ONSS attribute harsh weather conditions in the winter of 2013-2014, as well as the bankruptcy of a subcontractor. But as for other reasons why the project will finish so long after the June 30, 2014 target date, McKendrick defers to ONSS.

"That would be a question for Ontario Sports Solutions," he said on Friday.

There have been other speculations too. McKendrick said last year that ONSS had to modify the design mid-construction. And while that's common in a design-build process, he said, but it should have been factored into the process if it wasn't.

But others, such as Tony DiMaria from the Brick and Allied Craft Union Local 1, say the changes were unusual, and resulted in a scramble last fall to accommodate changes to the steel structure.

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson has another theory — that it's all about money. Ferguson is chair of the Pan Am subcommittee, which will grill IO and ONSS on Monday. He's also a construction industry veteran.

I used to work under penalty clauses of $50,000 a day.- Coun. Lloyd Ferguson

The contract between IO and ONSS didn't include specific daily financial penalties, Ferguson said. He thought it should from the beginning, he said, but the city wasn't involved in the process.

Without those daily late penalties, he said, it doesn't pay for a contractor to pay union crews more for overtime and weekends.

"I used to work under penalty clauses of $50,000 a day," he said.

IO is holding back $89 million from the ONSS contract until the stadium is finished. That's financial incentive, McKendrick said.

"The fact that they're not getting paid means they're incurring financial costs," he said. "They are getting daily, weekly, monthly financial penalties."

The builder has applied for substantial completion before. But now it has a full occupancy permit in hand, McKendrick said, and other issues have been addressed.

The delay has caused the city to cancel a May number of events in the stadium, including a cancer fundraiser.

Ferguson and the subcommittee will ask more questions at a Pan Am subcommittee meeting at 10 a.m. on Monday. 

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