Talk

Paul Wilson: Bad Memories at Big Bear

It is the summer of 2010 again and this city is talking about only one thing. Where do we put the Pan Am stadium?
This artist's concept was everywhere in the summer of 2010, the waterfront stadium we didn't get. (Paul Wilson)

An old song can take you back. So can a smell - a whiff of lavender is enough for a distant memory of grandma's garden.

Here I am, pulling into the Big Bear at Wilson and Wellington. Cold drink needed on a hot day. And there it is, a sign from other times. It's transporting me to a place I don't want to go.

It is the summer of 2010 again and this city is talking about only one thing. Where do we put the Pan Am stadium?

Most of us have tried to put those painful days behind us. My view is that the Ticats  bullied and threatened the town that loved them so long.

Council had voted to put that stadium on the waterfront. It was an exciting plan. At first the Cats were fine with that. And then they weren't. They decided they needed to be out on a highway, so people could have a "driveway to driveway" experience.

The 'Our City, Our Future' poster still has a home in the Big Bear window. (Paul Wilson)

I'll stop, because you know the story. You've buried it now, and so have I.

But here on the front window of Big Bear in the spring of 2012, in amongst posters for an angel-signs lecture and Xing premium-brewed tea, is a familiar blue-and-orange notice headlined Our City, Our Future. It urges council to do the right thing in 2010.

Yes, that old sign scratched a memory still sore. But, if anything good came out of that hard summer, it was the Our City, Our Future movement. It began with the bloggers at Raise the Hammer and evolved into a site of its own.

Citizens signed on to say why they believed a stadium on the waterfront would be good for Hamilton. They wanted it in the core, so they could walk or take transit. A toxic piece of the beautiful bay would be given back to us all.

I just checked. It turns out ourcityourfuture.ca is still there. Untouched, perfectly preserved. There are 3,495 named supporters, and nearly half have left comments. Not one liners. They are pouring their hearts out.

It's a digital time capsule of dashed dreams. Open it if you dare.