West Harbour Poorly Managed Vision

Published on August 5, 2010 12:09 AM by dbo.

In the debate de jour Wednesday, the stadium sides traded thoughts about parking at the two sites. The Tiger-Cats offered to cover the cost of up to 7,000 parking spots at the East Mountain site at roughly $5,000 per spot. The city responded by clarifying the parking situation at West Harbour, stating that there are actually 4,615 spots in the harbour area within 700 meters of the stadium. The interesting point of this is not the debate over the number of spots, but that these facts and more from the city’s West Harbour location start trickling out now.

Parking Solved?

With the city providing 600 city-paid spots on the stadium site, another 1,500 spots found on city-owned sites around the site and an additional 2,515 spots within a 700 meter walk they consider the parking situation solved. Mayor Eisenberger stated that the city would not acquire more land for more parking as the number of spots available is suitable for the stadium and any additional spots required by the Tiger-Cats should be acquired by the private interests.

While this is a positive step in the city providing actual information on the capabilities of the West Harbour site, just listing some numbers does not fill in the picture. Anyone who has viewed the site from above can see the neighbourhood does not provide for large amounts of parking in the area. I would suspect that the 1,500 city spots would include on-street parking around the stadium, which is a disruption to the community and what the Tiger-Cats want to get away from at the existing Ivor Wynne Stadium. The city would be best served by releasing maps highlighting the areas where this parking will exist. The lack of debatable diagrams and maps with where these 4,600 parking spots are, how traffic will flow, and other details indicate to me the city is playing as much politics with their site as the Ti-Cats are with theirs and hiding the deficiencies in their plan.

No Plan, No Facts, No Understanding

Another interesting fact to come out of the parking article is that the West Harbour site is 8 hectares compared to 6.8 hectares at East Mountain. I have been critical of the city of Hamilton for not providing any kind of rough diagrams, drawings or plans of the site. Based on what I knew, I stated the West Harbour site was too small and increasing its size could address major issues identified by the football club. Therefore, this new information is very welcome. I do not question it’s validity (though it is from a media report, not a direct city source), however, my belief was the East Mountain site was larger.

Based on media reports of the sites and their borders, my eyeball comparisons show that East Mountain is slightly larger. If that is incorrect, then most likely the media description of the streets bordering one of the sites is incorrect. I find it surprising the city has not provided a side-by-side comparison to help clear up these misconceptions.

To show what I mean, I’ve put together a side-by-side comparison of the three sites — West Harbour, East Mountain and Ivor Wynne Stadium. The image links to a full sized version.

Overhead, side-by-side comparison of Hamilton's West Harbour, East Mountain and Ivor Wynn Stadium sites

All images were captured from Google Maps at the same zoom level. The line thickness is not meant to influence the perception of each site’s size as I understand the East Mountain site would require additional buffer space around the off-ramps and roads.

With the comment that East Mountain parking would be across the street (to the south I assume), the outlined site would be for the stadium proper so I conclude the East Mountain site is slightly larger. It is possible the East Mountain site is limited to the strip of farm land down the middle, but no one has indicated the exact boundaries of the site except it is the ear-lobe north of Stone Church Road East, bordered by the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway and the Red Hill Valley Parkway. It is possible the description of the West Harbour site as bordered by Barton and Stuart Streets and Queen and Bay Streets is not correct and it encloses more area.

A lack of understanding of the site dimensions is a failing of the city in their West Harbour plan. Selecting the site, approving it through council, starting land acquisition and soil testing without any published concept of the site dimensions, stadium position, access points and parking is a backwards approach to a major civic project. Choosing the site for its revitalization agenda, getting the approvals, funding and buy-in from the privately-owned, long-term tenant and then coming up with drawings and details is the wrong way to approach a project even if everyone is on board. To build interest and gauge options developers should have been engaged early to provide input and details of what they need to get involved.

Mayor Eisenberger has also decried the Tiger-Cats conducting negotiations through the media, releasing new proposals to the public in open letters at the same time city has heard of them. This may be a shady tactic, but on the other hand the negotiations, proposals and details of each other’s positions should not be kept private, especially if either side is not willing to agree to the validity of each other’s arguments. These facts need to be put in the public realm, with counter-points and corrections by each side to sort out the spin and the media to filter it through. I am surprised so much of the counter-argument has been opinions and not facts, with the few references to city reports on parking or access not rebutting the claims of opposition, but simply stating they are trusted.

This project has been poorly managed by all who held the vision in their head — the mayor, councillors and city staff — all should have thought to put their vision on paper and sell it to the citizens. It seems there is some effort now to combat the criticisms of West Harbour with some facts, but too little and very late. It is very hard to win public support on just an opinion that the city should select the site and the harbour location is the best location for revitalization without that vision to get people excited. Instead, all they see is the site on Google Maps and the lack of access, parking and space in the described location.

Perhaps I am wrong and this information is available. I have not been able to find it. If you are aware of details of the West Harbour vision, please send me links to sources and information.

I am not a Hamiltonian. The rest of this debate is for the city’s leaders and citizens to figure out. I don’t support one site over another. I just want Hamilton to have a new stadium that will work for the Tiger-Cats and provide them a place where fans are excited to go, in good times and in bad. Good luck to all working towards that solution and may a compromise be found.

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West Harbour Poorly Managed Vision was published on August 5, 2010 12:09 AM by dbo.

1,201 words.

This article is categorized under Stadiums and tagged with hamilton and pan-am-stadium.

Two Responses to “West Harbour Poorly Managed Vision”

  1. You are correct as there is a lack of facts out there, at least a lack of facts that have been disseminated to the public as I have been fruitless in my searches and this article is better than most that I've read. From my perspective there really isn't any perfect location which the facts would only affirm, but the city doesn't have many options if they actually want this stadium built in the near future. The debate appears to be more of a battle of negatives, which location is the least worst from the City's perspective (I stress from the CITY'S perspective, because from a stadium operator's perspective the debate isn't even close).

    As a Pan-Am stadium they need the location close to the GO line to bring in the masses from Toronto (great for the first 2 weeks but then what!). The problem with the West Harbour location is that it is the least accessible location to a large percentage of Hamiltonians. Hamiltonians aren't getting to the stadium by GO train, and the close downtown core doesn't even contain our highest population density anymore, the Hamilton mountain does.

    The main drag on the East Mountain location is that it further sprawls the layout of Hamilton and would divert sorely needed investment away from the downtown core and jeopardizes other city projects.

    Now from a stadium operator's perspective or any perspective tenant such as the Tiger Cats the debate is a no-brainer. Accessibility is probably your number one concern. If fans are not able to access the stadium with a reasonable amount of ease then it's not a question of if they will come, you already know that they won't because they can't. You go to a game or event to enjoy yourself, not spend half an hour driving to the location, another half hour stuck in traffic trying to find a parking spot, and then another half hour walking because parking is still so far away. East Mountain location is serviced by 2 highways and has space for parking. It's really one extreme to the other. Honestly, with the exception of New York City or Tokyo I really can't imagine that there are many successful stadiums without highway access and I think you would be hard pressed to find examples.

    If the West Harbour stadium is built but is a failure at attracting events and does not improve Ticat profitability then it won't do much for the city anyways. More than anything I want to see a successful stadium otherwise I'd rather see nothing built and save some tax dollars. Improving the vision of the West Harbour site won't happen without a concrete plan to improve parking and accessibility.

    By Andrew on August 12, 2010 6:57 PM

  2. @Andrew

    Thanks for the comment. Council has committed to West Harbour, but it is possible that Young's Ti-Cats will never play there even if their list of issues are worked out due to the bad blood over the deaf ears, the Katz group situation and the ultimatums from both sides.

    The elected officials still have work to do with West Harbour if they get approved by the Pan-Am Corp and government money without any anchor tenant. There are details on the size of the stadium, the amount of private funds needed, development partnerships and the site design, including access and parking that need to be put on paper. Hamiltonians still need to provide input on perfecting this plan rather than letting the city get away with "we'll do it later" or "it will work out, just wait and see".

    More in a future post.

    By dbo on August 13, 2010 1:44 PM