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Pan Am precinct on lockdown: 'Who's coming? The President?'

After years of demolition and construction around the former Ivor Wynne site, the Pan Am Games are about to start. What does that mean for people in the restricted zone?

Residents in restricted zones around the stadium get used to living amid heavy security presence

Vince Flegg, 53, and his dog, Jigsaw, walk around the stadium everyday. He said he wonders what all the security is for. "Who's coming? The president?" (Jeff Green/CBC)

Vince Flegg and his dog, Jigsaw, are wondering who Pan Am Games organizers are planning on bringing to Hamilton.

They walk the perimeter of the stadium four times a day, each with a big smile. For Flegg, it keeps the retired iron worker's injured back from stiffening up. By his count, there are between 20 and 25 security staff, 24-hours a day there, a week before the games begin.

"Who's coming? The president? A couple days, maybe. But a whole week prior?" Flegg said.

- Micah Dale

He's one of hundreds of residents who live inside restricted zones erected this week around the stadium. As they get used to life amid high security that includes restrictions on some everyday behaviours, the reactions are mixed.

"I think this is a little bit ridiculous. It's just a big inconvenience," said Flegg. "They keep saying it's good for the city, it's good for the city, but I see a lot of expense that's wasted expense."

Security guards around the CIBC Pan Am Soccer Stadium make roughly $17 per hour. (Jeff Green/CBC)
Flegg lives outside the hard closure zone around the soccer stadium in Hamilton's east end.

Inside the hard closure zone, which surrounds the stadium and closes off Cannon Street East from Gage to Lottridge Streets, roads are closed off to anyone without a pass. Residents there can't park on the street, must leave their cars in the driveway and need to pass through a police-controlled gate to enter.

Hamilton Police did not address questions about whether people inside the hard closure area would be subject to additional police searches. As for the cost, they offered no figures but said the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services was picking up the tab.

In the soft-closure zone — the streets more than a block away where Flegg lives — residents need passes to park on the streets.

"If you have any company come they can't park," Flegg said. "You have elderly parents or something how the hell are they going to get to your house?"

'It's actually making us feel safe in the neighbourhood'

Guards standing post and on patrol are everywhere around the stadium. In a quick walk around the stadium, you can spot more than 20 yellow or blue-shirt security staff. (Jeff Green/CBC)
Inside the hard zone, the concerns are different. Kim Desormeaux says it's been quite the change from constant construction to silence. She said she's disabled, and some services are cut off for her because of the road closures that restrict vehicles without a pass.

"The only thing that's wrong is say if we drink, bootlegging, you can't have anybody, a taxi come here or bootlegger," said Desormeaux. "If you order a case a beer, they can't come down here, you have to go way up (to Barton Street) to get it."

There is an obvious positive to the increased foot traffic sealing off the stadium with paid security guards on every corner, and police at the entrances controlling who gets in and out, and walking on patrol.

"It's actually really good to have these men around, these ladies," said Desormeaux. "It's actually making us feel safe in the neighbourhood."

Micah Dale says living in the hard closure zone, where cars need a permit to pass into the closed off streets, is "not too fun." (Jeff Green/CBC)
Others, like Micah Dale, see it as harassment.

"So far it's not too fun," said Dale, who lives across the street from main gates. "They want to search everybody's truck and vehicle and stuff like that that actually lives here."

Desormeaux joked that she wonders what is in the stadium that needs such a presence, while the teams practice in nearby Burlington.

"It feels like it's a gold mine over there or something," Desormeaux said.

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