Sports complex in Aldershot being considered by city

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON December 28, 2010 –  Mayor Rick Goldring and Ward 1 Council member Rick Craven met with the owners of the Hamilton Tiger Cats after a Christmas Eve telephone call about the “possibility” of the team locating in Burlington at a site in the Aldershot community

There is talk of a triple A hockey team coming to the community which would add an arena to the mix.  Add in the parking lots and the hotel that would be part of the complex and you have a financial draw that would result in restaurants, clubs and all the other commercial ventures that cluster around this type of economic focal point.

A spokesperson from the Mayors office said the rest of the Council had been advised of the discussions and that there was enough interest for the Mayor to get into more detailed discussions.  City staff has been directed to prepare a detailed report for a January 6th meeting – so much for their holiday.

The proposed site is a piece of property between Waterdown Road and King Road and between the 403 and the GO train tracks.

The Tiger Cats are basically going to be without a stadium to play in – with the Hamilton city council unable to agree on a location for a new stadium that meets needs of the football team’s owners and the group organizing the PanAm games to be played in 2015.

Hamilton couldn’t agree on Coronation Park, couldn’t afford the millions for the CPR yards, the west harbour didn’t work for the team owners and the Mountain site was also out.

With nowhere to go – unless significant sums were sunk into renovating the old Ivor Wynne Stadium the Hamilton football team was running out of options.  There was never going to be another opportunity like the one the PanAm games had dropped on their doorstep.

Wowy Kazowy – this is big time stuff … in Burlington?

The Aldershot location gives the football team owners what they need and that is exposure on a main traffic route – it doesn’t get much more main than the 403.  Access to public transit – the GO train tracks are right beside the property which is owned by the Paletta family who are reported to own 54% of the employment lands in Burlington.

Those requirements are exactly what the PanAm games people were looking for as well.   One can see talk of a swap that would have Burlington employments lands rezoned for housing and the Aldershot property becoming available at a price the players can afford.  This now is pure speculation – but then that is what developers do – they speculate.

Burlington doesn’t have a dime to contribute to this initiative however it does have zoning power and the Paletta family and the planners will surely have one of those “you give us this and we could give you that” conversations.  Developers like to call these “win-win” situations.

Queen’s Park has money and the PanAm Games organization would dearly love to get a soccer stadium in place in time for those games in 2015.  Gosh, Burlington might yet get Pan Am Games soccer.

While Queen’s Park has the dollars Burlington doesn’t have the Rolodex that former Mayor Cam Jackson had and no one on city council knows quite who to call.

Enter stage left: Halton Region Chair Gary Carr who does have a Rolodex and people will take his calls.  Carr can certainly see the huge economic boost that a sports complex would bring to Halton.  As one politically connected wag put it: “This is one of those once in a century opportunities for Burlington but we have to have real good political smarts to pull this off.”  Carr could well end up being the guy who carries the pig skin.

Queen’s Park would love to send Burlington money but we have to ask for it and we don’t know quite how to do that.  Come October there are two provincial government seats up for grabs, Burlington and Halton.  The Liberals want those seats and a sports complex could be just the trick to take them both away from the Tories.  Joyce Savoline is said to be ready to retire but there isn’t the name of a candidate they can put on a lawn sign yet – unless the lawyer with the political ambitions decides he can find the energy to actually run a campaign. Ted Chudleigh could also go down if there were a serious challenge.

The trick then is to bring the community on side.  An opportunity for the Burlington council to show how they would use the words: transparency, public input and community involvement is staring our Council in the face.  Are they up to it?  They aren’t doing all that well with the Pier but that wasn’t a problem they created (well some of them certainly have to wear some of that responsibility for that one, but all will be redeemed if the Hamilton Tiger Cats play on a field in Burlington.

If the city can build enough public support for an Aldershot  sports complex they could overcome the bad taste the Pier with it’s 2013 “grand opening” day and $10 million price tag have left in the mouths of many.  Pulling off something like this also gives the Region of Halton one heck of a financial boost.

A stadium in the Aldershot community would shift the financial focus of Burlington from Brant Street west because the plans being discussed include a football field that could accommodate soccer and with very few additions a track and field facilities.

The Burlington Downtown Business Association will become small fish when compared to what the Aldershot BIA grows into –  and what do you think this opportunity is going to do to the development of the city’s Strategic Plan?

Mayor Goldring has shown some leadership in that unlike some of our previous Mayors he consulted with his team and is listening to what they have to say.  Kudos for the Mayor on that one.

How did all this come about …

It all started with a Christmas Eve phone call from Scott Mitchell, president of the Hamilton Tiger Cat Football Club to Mayor Goldring which led to a  led to a meeting with Mayor Goldring and ward 1 council member Rick Craven who has been an advocate for sorts facilities in his ward for some time. 

But it all goes back even further than that.  This is actually a circle that began when Goldring, then ward 5 council member, voted for the PanAm soccer games being played in Sherwood Forest park.  He reversed his vote on that idea when his constituents revolted and said not in our back yard.  That took the location for soccer games to New City Park which doesn’t yet have a building permit.

Meanwhile, down the road a bit Hamilton proves that it is even more dysfunctional than Burlington and keeps voting against different proposals for a new stadium in that city.

In deep background is the fact that the Paletta family own a chunk of land that the Hamilton Tiger Cats are said to covet but no one wants to makes a move until Hamilton completes their self destruction.

The municipal election puts a new Mayor in both the Hamilton city council and the Burlington Council.  Burlington gets a guy that is quite a bit softer in approach than his predecessor while Hamilton gets a radio announcer who isn’t able to get his council to agree on a location for a stadium in that city.

Stadium looks a little crowded – team needs more room.
Stadium looks a little crowded – team needs more room.

An outfit called HOSTCO (they are the people that are organizing the PanAm games) are getting really antsy and they tell Hamilton that they have to make a decision by February 1st on a stadium location or the soccer games go somewhere else – with Markham, Mississauga and Brampton getting mention as possibilities.

With Hamilton going nowhere that’s when the Christmas Eve phone calls get made – and the making of a deal begins to take shape.

HOSTCO doesn’t say – “this is a great idea” – they wait for Hamilton to completely self destruct.  Meanwhile the Paletta people, the Hamilton Tiger Cat organization and Burlington’s city council meet and pow wow and see what can be done.

If there is a sports complex in the Aldershot community by 2015 it will be because Hamilton really blew it and Rick Goldring reversed his vote on Sherwood Forest.

Could this really happen?

There are enough people with the kind of money needed who are ‘interested’ in being at the table but Hamilton has to first finish with screwing up the opportunity they have.

The Tiger Cat ownership may well be using their meeting with Mayor Goldring to squeeze the Hamilton city Council – that’s the way the big money guys play the game.

BUT – if Hamilton does fail to come up with a location that is acceptable to the HOSTCO guys then Burlington is certainly in the running.  Ya gotta know that the telephone lines are burning with everyone calling everyone.

All it will take to get this through Burlington’s council is four votes and the Mayor has what he needs to make this happen if the financial  numbers are right.  Craven is in, Taylor and Dennison will be in – if the numbers are right. Sharman will love the idea – this is just the kind of game he loves to play – and he is good at it.  He will be in.  Lancaster will want to ensure that best practices are followed and then her vote will be in.  Could Meed Ward be the odd man out on this one?

Both Ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward and Craven of Ward 1 put a note on their Facebook pages.  Craven linked his people to the Spec article and Meed Ward commented that there was a $30 million shortfall in the funding and said “this is not a done deal.”  It would be nice to see this Council, after looking at all the numbers and doing the due diligence, stand and give a unanimous vote to go forward. A chance to show Hamilton how it’s done.  Goldring has instructed city staff` to prepare a report for a January 6th meeting.  Good solid first step Mr. Mayor – keep your cards close to your chest and don’t give away the farm – but bring the bacon home.

The PanAm Games in Burlington, in a new sports complex in 2015 – do you suppose the first soccer game could take place before the Pier opens?

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