Hamilton still getting a pro soccer team - but not a bubble dome

Hamilton is still getting its promised pro soccer team, says a local soccer champion working with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But city councillors don't want a bubble dome yet.

Councillors voted not to let the Ticats put a dome over the stadium for pro soccer

An air-supported dome sits over a football facility in Houston, Texas. Hamilton city councillors turned down a similar dome over Tim Hortons Field on Wednesday. (Yeadon Air-Supported Structures)

Hamilton is still getting a professional soccer team, says one organizer. But it won't be practicing under a new bubble dome on Tim Hortons Field any time soon.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are likely "within 90 days" of announcing a new level one soccer team for the Canadian Premier League, said John McGrane, a Canadian soccer hall-of-famer and 25-time national team member who's been working with the team. It's already licensed four names, including Hamilton United and the Hamilton Steelers.

If you were to ask me where we're at right now, I would say I can see the finish line not too far away.- John McGrane

"If you were to ask me where we're at right now," he said, "I would say I can see the finish line not too far away."

The lack of sports dome on Tim Hortons Field doesn't help, McGrane said. But it's not a deal breaker.

"It does hamper what the long-term process is as far as developing a professional team that is based on Canadian talent," he said. "It does do that."

McGrane's comments came after city council's general issues committee voted Wednesday not to pursue a sports dome at the new stadium. 

McGrane approached the city last year about partnering with the Ticats to build a sports dome.

The dome would not only house the new team, he said then, but contribute $100,000 per year to a fund to replenish the stadium's turf.

The city hired a consultant, JF Group, to look into the potential dome. In a presentation Wednesday, the consultant didn't recommend it.

Councillors agreed. There are already 14 private indoor soccer fields in Hamilton, seven of which are in Ancaster. Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson didn't like the idea of competing with the private sector. Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green liked the idea of putting a dome at the old Dominion Glass property instead so it can better serve the whole community.

Also, the city and Ticats are engaged in litigation right now over the construction of the new stadium. So the city couldn't move forward anyway, said Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor. He moved not to look at the dome idea until litigation ends. City council will vote whether to ratify that decision on Jan. 25.

Under the stadium lease agreement, the Ticats had until the end of March 2016 to use their exclusive rights to soccer at the stadium. That window has passed, but McGrane said that's not a problem. There's no competition anyway.

"Nobody else is looking at bringing professional soccer into Hamilton other than the Hamilton Ticats," he said.

There have been false starts with professional soccer in Hamilton before. Tom Jackson, Ward 6 councillor, mentioned that in the bubble dome debate.

"Until this league is established and we're awarded a franchise, I'll continue to be a skeptic."