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Ticats owner calls stadium decision a 'massive mistake'

Red Hat co-founder and Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young

Ron Pozzer

Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young says the city is making a "massive mistake" by deciding to build a new stadium downtown and it could force the CFL club to leave town.

Following a marathon meeting Tuesday, city council voted 12-3 in favour of the downtown West Harbour site over one in the East Mountain area.

The stadium is supposed to be the new home of the Tiger-Cats after it plays host to the Pan American Games in August 2015.

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But Young wanted the new facility to be built on the East Mountain site and pulled his support of the project earlier this week. In a letter to council Monday, he hinted that the team may be forced to move because its lease at aging Ivor Wynne Stadium is up after next season.

In an interview with The Fan 590 in Toronto on Wednesday, Young did more than drop hints.

"We think it's a massive mistake and may end the Ticats in Hamilton," he told the Toronto radio station.

Young said he felt "a combination of disappointment and regret" about Tuesday's decision, but says he wasn't surprised.

"We were very aware of what the vote was going to be long before they voted," he said. "The councillors, to their credit, were very up front with their biases and their preferences."

Young said he hired experts from across North America assess about 10 sites around the city.

"And they concluded that the West Harbour was the worst of these 10 locations," Young said.

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There were several reasons for the experts' assessment, said Young, including the fact that the site is in a residential neighbourhood and is not near a major highway.

Young also shot down rumours that a deal to move the team to Quebec City was in place.

"Not that I'm aware of," he said. "I'm looking forward to someone coming up with a solution for this because the way this thing is playing out is very scary for the future of Hamilton Tiger-Cat franchise."

The city has said it plans to reach out to the Ticats in an effort to come together on the issue.

Young had promised $15-million toward the East Mountain site with an additional $59-million in other funds if the CFL club managed the stadium.

"I hope that entrenched positions on their side don't continue and that they come to the table in earnest and talk about the serious intent of our city council," Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger told the Fan. "At the same time, we all want to look forward to finding ways of how we can make it more financially sustainable for them."

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Eisenberger is scheduled to meet Ian Troop, the CEO of the 2015 Pan Am Games, this week to discuss the city's stadium plan.

"Our objective will be to fully understand the city's proposition," Ian Troop said in a release. "Once we've had these discussions, I will request a special meeting of the Toronto 2015 board of directors to discuss the venue review and to present a recommendation. We'll hope to have this convened within two weeks of our meeting with the city."

If the board approves the recommendation, Games organizers will then seek final approval from the federal and provincial governments.

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