City councillors reject proposal to build an arena at Lime Ridge Mall

The proposal for an arena at Lime Ridge Mall is almost dead at Hamilton city hall.

Hamilton Bulldogs owner has said he'll look at moving his OHL team

The Hamilton Bulldogs partnered with Cadillac Fairview to pitch a new 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall. (Google)

The proposal for an arena at Lime Ridge Mall is almost dead at Hamilton city hall.

City councillors voted 11-3 on Wednesday to walk away from the idea put forward by mall ownwer Cadillac Fairview and Bulldogs hockey team owner Michael Andlauer that would have seen a 6,000-seat arena built at the central Mountain mall. 

Three Mountain councillors fought for it. But overall, most said the city couldn't afford the project, and it shouldn't make a $126-million investment for a facility on private property.

"We're just giving money away to a private investor who's going to benefit," said Brenda Johnson, Ward 11 (Glanbrook) councillor.

"This had nothing to do with downtown versus the Mountain."

Andlauer and Cadillac Fairview, approached the city last year. The idea, city staff say, was a 6,000-seat arena, which would cost $72 million to build, plus $52 million to build an 1,800-vehicle parking garage. Cadillac Fairview has also talked about building a hotel on the site, and Andlauer pledged $30 million himself.

Council voted in October to discuss options with the two. A staff report says those talks show the city should walk away from the project.

Andlauer has said he'd consider moving his team if the city didn't downsize FirstOntario Centre, an aging arena where the OHL team is the main tenant. CBC News is pursuing comment from Andlauer.

Most councillors who voted to walk away complimented Andlauer and the Bulldogs. But "we can't justify spending $100 million at Cadillac Fairview," said Coun. Brad Clark of Ward 9 (upper Stoney Creek).

Andlauer has predicted Bulldogs attendance would increase with a new arena, but Clark said big-ticket concerts bring in the most money. Those have included Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks and BTS, who wouldn't have played Hamilton without the 17,000-seat FirstOntario Centre. 

That larger arena has its problems, Clark said, but "the bones are good. The building's good."

The conversation did, inevitably, become about downtown versus the Mountain.

Esther Pauls, Ward 7 (central Mountain) councillor, says the Mountain deserves more investment. And Tom Jackson, Ward 6 (east Mountain) councillor, says people living in his ward are tired of downtown getting all the attention.

"The time would be right to look at a Mountain site," he said. "The Mountain is special, and the Mountain should not be discarded."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said downtown hasn't seen a new entertainment facility "in a generation." Having amenities close together, he said, encourages more investment, and people can walk from one to the other.

The vote comes as the city is discussing the future of FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre. Possible options include maintaining existing facilities, or rebuilding or moving them to position them in a cluster. 

City council still has to ratify the vote on Jan. 22.

How they voted

In favour of walking away from the Lime Ridge arena proposal:

Maureen Wilson (Ward 1), Jason Farr (2), Nrinder Nann (3), Chad Collins (5), John-Paul Danko (8), Brad Clark (9), Maria Pearson (10), Brenda Johnson (11), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Judi Partridge (15), Mayor Fred Eisenberger.


Tom Jackson (6), Esther Pauls (7), Terry Whitehead (14).


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca