Ticats drop support for Pan Am stadium

Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young is withdrawing his team's support for a new stadium in Hamilton, a plan that would have seen the stadium play host to the 2015 Pan Am Games before becoming home to the CFL club.

Questions raised about the future of the franchise in Hamilton

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats may be looking for a new home.

Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young is withdrawing his team's support for a new stadium in Hamilton, a plan that would have seen the facility play host to some of the 2015 Pan Am Games before becoming home to the CFL club.

Young wrote a letter to Mayor Fred Eisenberger on Monday to say the team has withdrawn its support, leaving the Ticats without a stadium after next season, when its lease at Ivor Wynne expires.

"My major regret is the harsh reality that after next year, there will be no home for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the city where we shared so much success and positive experiences together," Young wrote. "We will play out our days at Ivor Wynn."

The decision to pull out raises questions about the Ticats' future in Hamilton. City councillor Sam Merulla told The Canadian Press the CFL club has a $17-million deal to potentially move to Quebec City, and that Young could sell the team to a group that has been awarded a conditional expansion team for the city of Ottawa.

Young would require CFL board approval to relocate the franchise, however, and it would be tough to do in Quebec City considering the success of the Grey Cup-champion Montreal Alouettes. Another big issue is that the city doesn't have a 25,000-seat stadium.

Moving the franchise could be an option

A CFL source said Monday there are no indications any relocation deals have been reached.

The source added that Young's top priority has been finding a viable new stadium in Hamilton that could help secure the franchise's long-term future, though now moving the team could be an option. 

Young's main issue of contention was the proposed location of the new stadium. He favoured it being built in the East Mountain area of the city, while local politicians wanted it closer to the downtown core.

"We were vitally interested in being part of a stadium solution to replace Ivor Wynne," Young wrote, before expressing his concern over the location.

"It imposes a logistical nightmare for fans. … As such, I cannot be part of a process that destines us to financial failure before our first shovel goes in the ground. As owner of the Tiger-Cats, I cannot and will not be part to such an ill-advised concept."

Young had promised $15 million toward the East Mountain site, with an additional $59 million in other funds if the CFL club managed the stadium.

Ticats heavily subsidized

CFL spokesman Jamie Dykstra said the league will continue to work with the Ticats to find a solution to the stadium issue.

Ian Troop, chief executive officer of Toronto 2015, expressed disappointment in Young's decision.

"The Tiger-Cats announcement will be received with great disappointment by many and 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. We look forward to the city's decision this week."

Merulla said the city subsidizes the Ticats to the tune of $1.3 million annually, and charges the team only $27,000 to play its games at Ivor Wynne. The franchise also gets to keep all revenues generated at the facility.

"Here we have an owner who has been heavily subsidized by the residents of this city for a number of years … here is a team that's not only on welfare but now is trying to dictate where public money should be spent for their stadium at the expense of the residents of this city," Merulla said. 

"I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Young and this comes to me as a shocker."

With files from The Canadian Press