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Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. (Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail) (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. (Photo by Peter Power/The Globe and Mail) (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Hamilton Ticats eye move to Burlington Add to ...

Over the past four months, as debate raged in Hamilton over where to build a new stadium for the Pan American Games and the city's professional football team, the Tiger-Cats were quietly working on a deal to move across Burlington Bay.

The proposal, which became public earlier this week, must still be approved by the City of Burlington and submitted to Pan Am organizers, but the players involved have revealed a handful of details on how the concept would work.

What's more, the CFL is backing the club's move.

The proposed stadium site is on land owned by developers Paletta International Corp., which has been working on a project to build a 9,000-seat arena, large enough to accommodate an Ontario Hockey League team, for two years. The company earlier told Pan Am organizers it would be interested in partnering up to provide some of the facilities for the games, president Angelo Paletta said, but didn't hear anything back.

Last summer, the Ticats approached Paletta about working together on a Pan Am proposal that would see a 22,000-seat stadium built alongside the arena, plus a sports and entertainment complex featuring a hotel, restaurants, athletics-related stores and other businesses.

"I think it's a great project - I would hope anyone at the federal and provincial level would get involved, and everyone from Hamilton to Burlington can get behind it," Paletta said.

In addition to providing the land, a consortium including Paletta, Ticats owner Bob Young and other unidentified partners would put $30-million toward the stadium's construction. Paletta said he hoped $5-million already allocated to Burlington for the Pan Am games would go to the project and his company would maintain an ownership interest in the facility.

How much the development would cost wasn't immediately clear. Hamilton has estimated the price tag for a stadium would be about $140-million, of which the city agreed to pay a substantial chunk. Some cautioned that, if the price is too high, it could make the stadium a political liability for Burlington, as it has been for Hamilton.

"Are the people of Burlington going to give millions of dollars to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats?" wondered local political observer Henry Jacek, a professor at McMaster University. He pointed out that Burlington voters recently turfed their old mayor over cost overruns on a different civic building project.

Regardless of the political dimension of negotiations, the league itself said it was on board with the move.

"The Tiger-Cats have kept us apprised of the latest developments in their efforts to find a regional solution for their stadium needs and those of the upcoming Pan Am Games," commissioner Mark Cohon stated. "The site they have identified in Aldershot appears to have tremendous potential to serve the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their fans. We support their efforts."

The Ticats' current venue, Ivor Wynne Stadium, is aging, and the club has struggled to make money there. However, the team rejected the new stadium site the city endorsed over the summer, in a blighted area near the harbour. The two sides settled on a compromise location, on a rail yard west of downtown.

However, the cost of buying that land proved too high, prompting Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina to propose building in a city-owned waterfront park in the east end instead, a concept the club supported. Councillors rejected both sites last week; the club brought its deal with Paletta to Burlington's mayor on Monday.

Hamilton still has until Feb. 1 to submit a proposal for a stadium, after which organizers have said they will look at building a smaller facility in another city. They will also consider the Burlington proposal if it comes to fruition.

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