A Ticat Pan Am stadium in Burlington?

Vote passes 5-2 to send for further study

Proposed Ticat stadium site Aldershot Burlington
Proposed Ticat stadium site Aldershot Burlington

The Ticats are exploring Paletta-owned lands in Aldershot between King and Waterdown roads for a $130 million, 22,000 seat stadium that would also be used for Pan Am games. Just after Christmas, Ticat officials approached Burlington to partner.

Paletta would donate 10 acres of land, moving tax-generating land into public (and non tax-generating) hands.

There may be public and private funding of about $100 million, leaving a potential “funding gap” of up to $30m for capital costs.

The city would have to own the stadium to qualify for Pan Am funding. The Ticats have said we would not have to cover capital, operating or maintenance costs, but we’ve go no such commitment from the province, who controls the purse strings on this project.

There are also opportunity costs: could the land be put to better use as industrial/commercial space, which would generate property tax revenue and bring quality jobs for Burlington and area residents?

We’re told (by a consultant hired by the Ticats) that the stadium would bring $1.4 billion in regional economic activity. I’ve read the 17-page Altus study, and it’s very light on details to justify where those numbers come from. (Email me for a copy).

An article in Hamilton Magazine here tells another story:

“Economists agree on little, but in nearly 30 years of peer-reviewed study, the conclusion is unequivocal: No matter what city or professional sport, fiscal benefit to municipalities barely registers – at best,” says the article. “At worst, publicly funded stadia often become underused, serving as collateral for decades of steep public subsidy.”

A sports economist at the University of Alberta says that “sports stadia have little, if any, positive economic impacts on municipalities, even when paired with big events like the Pan Am Games.”

A staff direction to look into the feasibility of the project and report back in three weeks passed 5-2 at a Jan. 6 council meeting. Councillor John Taylor and myself voted against the direction.

My main concern is that though the Ticats may be interested in Burlington, Hostco has not said they are interested in Burlington. In fact, they’ve said Hamilton is still the preferred location, and if Hamilton cannot find a location at it’s meeting Jan. 12, Hostco will look to build a smaller stadium in Mississauga or Brampton for Pan Am needs.

Burlington probably never was in the running for a stadium, despite the Ticats interest in us. At the council meeting, I requested a delay of one week before sending staff to do research, in order to let Hamilton vote, and bring Hostco to the table. My reasoning: if waiting 6 days lets Burlington out of the running, we never really were a contender.

We should know where we stand later this week.

My take: My focus is on ensuring the long term prosperity of Burlington, including attracting high-paying jobs and investment, and keeping our city finances healthy. I have significant questions about whether this idea does either. I expect, though, that this will be the opportunity that never really was. Going forward, I’m interested to connect with local sports clubs to determine their needs – they’ve already said a stadium of the size being proposed by the Ticats is more than they need.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

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