With just over a year to go before Southern Ontario plays host to the Pan Am Games, major facilities holding track cycling and soccer are behind schedule and at least two Pan Am-related projects are set to run over budget.
On the same day Pan American Games CEO Saad Rafi boasted about the “world-class facilities” being built for the Games to a crowd at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, construction crews were on site at some those facilities, racing to finish projects in time for test events. Stakeholders in both Hamilton and Toronto delivered reports Tuesday on venues that showed they were either projected to run over budget or risked not opening on schedule.
The $145.7-million Hamilton Pan Am Stadium – to be the future home of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats – will be a construction site on the day of its official opening a month from now, the city’s public works manager said Tuesday after contractor Ontario Sports Solutions updated Hamilton’s Pan Am Stadium precinct committee on the status of the facility.
The project had fallen behind schedule due to a prolonged winter and the bankruptcy of some subcontractors responsible for bricklaying, according to City of Hamilton staff.
Mr. Rafi said he had “full confidence” the facility would be ready in time for the Games in a year, as construction crews have been working double and triple shifts since winter to complete it. But a much tighter deadline looms for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who are set to play the Ottawa RedBlacks at the stadium on July 26.
“It definitely won’t be finished per the contract, but if they can get an occupancy permit for certain areas, they can host the game,” said Gerry Davis, the manager of Hamilton public works. He said the heating and cooling systems won’t be complete, not all the washrooms will be ready, and concessions and landscaping will only be partly finished.
Whatever the extra labour costs may be, Mr. Davis has said they will fall to the facility’s other partners.
“The city has made it clear, we will not pay any additional costs. We want to work with everybody, but we put our money forward for the project [already],” he said.
Hamilton Ticats president Glenn Gibson played down the amount of unfinished work still left to do, and said he is confident the stadium will be in good shape in time for the July game.
He said that all the team needs in order to run a game is a field (which is on schedule), seats (which are being installed), lights (which they already have) and a permit (which the contractors will be filing for). If necessary, he said “temporary accommodations” – like portable toilets – might be brought in.
“The impression when you say to someone ‘construction site’ is that you’re coming down wearing construction hat and boots and walking into a very uncomfortable environment to watch a game in an incomplete building. That’s not what’s involved here,” he said. “The landscaping’s not going to be done, and there may be a couple issues here and there, but the site itself is going to look great. The fans are not walking into a construction site. They’re going to be walking into a professional environment.”
Mr. Gibson added that the team has a contingency plan in case the stadium is not complete in time for July, and the contractors would be responsible for any extra expenses incurred.
Another facility whose completion date has been nudged forward due to weather is the $56-million Cisco Milton Pan Am/Parapan Am Velodrome, which will be the site of track cycling events. Mr. Rafi said it is between four and eight weeks behind schedule, but would be ready for use by the end of August.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a staff report prepared for the city’s executive committee revealed that at least two Pan Am-related projects are over budget: a BMX track in Etobicoke that was originally estimated to cost $1.5-million but is now projected to cost at least $4.4-million; and the illumination of the Prince Edward viaduct, which is expected to cost $4.6-million – up from $1.8-million.
During his lunchtime speech, Mr. Rafi said, “I’m happy to report that [all venues] are on or under budget, which is an amazing feat for a Games.” When questioned about the overruns on the BMX facility, he said that expenditure represents only 0.1 per cent of the total capital spending for the Pan Am Games.
Toronto’s deputy city manager Brenda Patterson said the city is still on time for completion of the projects, and under budget over all. In 2011, Toronto city council approved the spending of up to $96.5-million for Pan Am infrastructure – an amount that Ms. Patterson says the city is in no danger of going over, partly because other projects, such as a new aquatic centre in Scarborough, have been completed significantly under budget.
Councillor Michael Thompson, the city’s chair of economic development, called it money well spent.
“Remember, much of what we’re doing is legacy investment,” he said. “The housing part is going to be there for many, many years to come. The venues – the BMX park, for example, is going to be a permanent fixture. It’s going to be there for years to come.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher, who represents the ward where the Prince Edward viaduct is located, said it was always her understanding that the project would cost more than $1.8-million. To her, a project of such complexity commands a greater investment.
“I guess we could just go down to Canadian Tire and buy some Christmas lights and put them on and say ‘Welcome’ to all the people coming for the Pan Am Games and that might satisfy some people. I’m not sure it would satisfy the spirit of the Pan Am,” she said.
The Pan Am Games organizing committee has endured major upheaval at the top in the last year – CEO Ian Troop was replaced last December by Mr. Rafi, who turfed two other executives in March.
Adding to the disruptions, Premier Kathleen Wynne swore in her new cabinet Tuesday, replacing Michael Chan, who has been Pan Am Games minister since November, 2012, with Michael Coteau.