Hamilton council backs West Harbour stadium

Hamilton city council has voted in favour of building a controversial new stadium at a downtown site, but it's unclear who will be using it.

After a marathon meeting, Hamilton's city council voted to build a controversial new stadium at a downtown site, but it's now unclear just who will be using it. 

The vote follows months of negotiations that saw stadium supporters divided between two proposed sites — downtown's West Harbour and the East Mountain site favoured by the owner of Hamilton's CFL Tiger-Cats.

Councillor Bob Bratina said the vote was 12 to 3 in favour of the West Harbour site, but councillors are now faced with trying to lure the city's CFL team to the facility. 

Ticats owner Bob Young made a bombshell announcement Monday saying he was withdrawing his support for the proposed stadium negotiations.

Hamilton's councillors are now trying to change his mind. 

"We have to first of all try to re-establish some kind of relationship with the Tiger-Cats," Bratina said moments after the vote.

"Apparently they've been avoiding our attempts to contact them in the last couple of days — or they haven't responded at least."

Ivor Wynne lease expires next year

An amendment made before Tuesday night's voting required city council to approach the Ticats to try to find a solution to the impasse but one has yet to be reached.

The Ticats announcement leaves the CFL club with no place to play after its lease at aging Ivor Wynne Stadium runs out in 2011. 

It also means there is no long-term tenant for the new proposed stadium.

When contacted by The Canadian Press, a Ticats spokesman said he would not comment on the city council decision.

"We're just referring people to the letter Bob put out yesterday," Scott McNaughton said. Young's letter, which hinted at a possible move to another city, caused waves in the CFL and Hamilton community. 

"It saddens me to advise you that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football club is withdrawing from any further discussions and negotiations pertaining to the siting of the Pan Am Stadium in Hamilton," Young wrote. 

"My major regret is the harsh reality that after next year, there will be no home for Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the city where we shared so much success and positive experiences together." 

Bratina, who's city councillor in the ward where the new proposed stadium would be located, said city council doesn't know whether the provincial organization in charge of organizing the 2015 Pan Am Games will approve the stadium location decision in the face of the Ticats opting out. 

'Man of the moment' is Troop

Tuesday night's now decision now turns the issue over to Ian Troop, the chief executive officer of Toronto 2015.

Bratina called Troop the "man of the moment."

"Now he has to get this message from Hamilton saying we want the West Harbour and the Tiger-Cats say they're not going to play. So now what do we do?"

In an email message received Tuesday night, a Toronto 2015 spokeswoman there was no immediate comment on the stadium.

"At this time, we are reserving a response until we learn more from the city before commenting as soon as possible," Liz Borowiec wrote. 

On Monday, Troop had expressed disappointment over Young's decision to pull out of negotiations.

"We know that this is a difficult time," Troop said in a statement. "Toronto 2015 hopes that Hamilton council can proceed with thoughtful deliberation on the stadium." 

Merulla against West Harbour

Although the city's decision on the stadium's location has now been made, there are still hurdles to overcome before any ground will be broken. 

Sam Merulla was one of the three city councillors who voted against the West Harbour site. He's opposed to the Pan Am Games, saying city council's focus should be on poverty and infrastructure. 

Merulla had proposed the stadium currently being used by the Ticats be renovated.

He said with no tenant for the new facility, it's clear the criteria set out by the Pan Am bid committee is not being met and therefore "no money will be flowing."

"What we saw today was simply a charade in the guise of a democratic process," Merulla said. "It's laughable at best, but really sad in reality." 

"We're not meeting the criteria so in essence the province and the feds will not be allocating any money toward this project."

Merulla told The Canadian Press he'd heard the Ticats have a $17-million deal to potentially move to Quebec City. 

"Apparently there's no public agreement in place but that doesn't mean discussions aren't taking place behind closed doors," Merulla said.