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No extra money for Hamilton stadium, Gary Lunn says

Children take to the field at Ivor Winn Stadium after a Tiger Cats practice in Hamilton on Aug. 10, 2010.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The Harper government is resisting being drawn into another stadium debate, with Queen's Park asking Ottawa to consider hiking its multimillion-dollar contribution toward a new Pan American Games stadium that would later be home to the CFL's Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Federal Sports Mnister Gary Lunn said on Thursday that no extra money will be forthcoming from his government for the Games but proponents of a larger stadium should look to the private sector instead.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his ministers have created confusion in recent weeks about where the federal government stands on funding venues that pro sports will use because of varying comments on Quebec City's push for a new NHL franchise.

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However, Ottawa has already promised millions toward a Hamilton football stadium project as part of the 2015 Pan Am Games that is currently mired in a heated debate over its location.

The government has not announced how much money it will give for the stadium, but it will be part of Ottawa's $500-million contribution toward the Games, which Toronto is hosting. Based on a cost-sharing formula, it is estimated that Ontario and the federal government will each contribute about $28-million toward a $102-million new stadium in Hamilton, where several events will be held during the games.

However, the city is reported to be looking for an extra $50-million to increase the size of the proposed stadium to 25,000 seats from 15,000 to make it big enough for the Tiger Cats.

This campaign is picking up steam since Sophia Aggelonitis, a minister in Ontario's McGuinty government and a Hamilton MPP, said the province is "very open" to sitting down with the city, the federal government and the Ti-Cats to discuss a revised request.

"We're looking forward to having all four parties at the table to talk about extra funding, and we would definitely look at a new proposal from the city and we'll give it very careful consideration," Ms. Aggeleonitis said in an interview Thursday. "I hope Ottawa will stand side by side with all the partners."

The Ontario Revenue Minister said the Pam Am Games make the situation in Hamilton completely different from the campaign to revive the Quebec Nordiques via a new hockey arena.

"At the end of the day, it's about making sure that Hamilton's a part of the Pan Ams as well as having a stadium for our Tiger-Cats," she said.

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Ontario's move brings the number of provincial governments asking Ottawa to consider new funding for professional sports venues to at least three. Quebec's push for a new NHL-caliber arena tied to a 2022 Olympic bid, and Saskatchewan wants federal cash for a new domed stadium with a retractable roof that would be home to the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Mr. Lunn, the federal Sports Minister, said Ottawa will not increase its Pan Am Games contribution beyond the $500-million already promised, but did not rule out discussing an increase in the stadium's share of the money.

"I think it's important that they stay within the $500-million," he said in an interview. "If they're looking at issues to try to increase the stadium for the Ti-Cats, I think that's great. But for the funding, it's really important that the private sector step up to the table to meet those funding demands... We have a policy that we don't, as a rule, build sports infrastructure for professional sports teams."

The Ti-Cats ownership threatened to pull the franchise out of Hamilton after city council voted this summer to build the stadium downtown on the city's harbour. The Ti-Cats want a venue that is closer to the highways to help attract fans from outside the city.

Council is looking at other locations in the hope of reaching a compromise. Once that decision is made, the exact costs will be submitted to the Pan Am Games organizing committee and details will then need approval from the federal and provincial governments.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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