Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Legacy of sports or legacy of debts?

Heaven help Hamilton on this one.    Another round of Pan Am chicken.

No sooner did it seem we call Red Hat owner Bob Young's bluff and offer to do a renovation of Ivor Wynne than it turns out that the proposal as set was for bleachers and not seats with backs.   So the whole place will have to be torn down and rebuilt (just as well, the lower decks are 80 years old) and rebuilt with fewer seats.

Now, we've gotten into a mess over the velodrome that is supposed to be built for the 2015 Pan Am Games (the games for those not good enough to get into that year's world championships of the various disciplines that also act as qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro).   The costs have skyrocketed, from about $12 million to $25 and yesterday doubled again to $50 million.   And it hasn't even been built yet.

Plus it gets crazier -- no site has been finalized.    What should have been the site for the new stadium (the old Rheem ™ water heater plant) was expropriated but the cleanup costs are way high and there is no Superfund like the EPA has in the States for contaminated brownfield sites.   This would have been a nice site -- in fact in the winning bid book the Toronto committee organizing the games saw the West Harbour having both the soccer stadium and the velodrome.   McMaster University, my alma mater, is not interested.   Several sites on the Escarpment are being considered, but they would require paving over soccer and baseball fields.   That leaves Olympic Park in Dundas, but the environment crowd is all over that because it's right at the very west end of Lake Ontario, along the Desjardins Canal and Cootes Paradise.

We have sewers that are 100 years old.   An access road along the Escarpment that literally caves in twice or three times every year.   A huge public housing backlog.   For heaven's sake, don't we have better things to do than spend fifty mill on a bike track?   Contrary to what the opponents claim, there won't be many young non-competitive cyclers using this one.   Especially if the rent is sky high.    They tried that model in Montréal, it failed and the velodrome there, next to the Big Owe, is now a provincially run environment museum.   Hamilton prides itself as being a city of museums except Montréal has long marketed itself much better on that one and it actually manages to pay off its debts eventually even if concrete slabs fall every now and then. 

Hamilton?   Don't make me laugh.    Spend the money on priorities that pay back over the entire life cycle -- not on white elephants.   If we can't get major airlines other than WestJet ™ to fly out of that monstrosity that doesn't even have a full 10,000 feet runway (but will soon, 30 years after), why should we even bother with this joke?

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