Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Locals gracious over Hamilton's new stadium

Feds putting $69.3M into project

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The Winnipeg Football Club, the provincial government and Mayor Sam Katz's office are putting a brave face on Ottawa's decision to spend $69.3 million on a new stadium for the privately owned Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

In a deal announced Friday, the federal government, the Province of Ontario and the City of Hamilton agreed to cover 100 per cent of the $145.7-million price tag for a new 24,000-seat Canadian Football League facility that will rise on the existing site of Ivor Wynne Stadium, the longtime home of the Tiger-Cats.

Ottawa is covering 48 per cent of the tab to complete a new Hamilton stadium in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. The new stadium will be dubbed the Pan Am Soccer Stadium for the duration of the month-long event, slated for both Hamilton and Toronto.

But the long-term tenant will be the CFL's Tiger-Cats, whose owner, Bob Young, told Hamilton media the new stadium will generate additional revenue.

The non-profit Winnipeg Football Club, meanwhile, is on the hook for $85 million of the $190-million price tag for Investors Group Field, the Blue Bombers' new 33,000-seat facility at the University of Manitoba. The Province of Manitoba and City of Winnipeg are using cash and future property taxes at Polo Park to pay the rest of the tab.

Ottawa did not contribute cash toward the construction of Investors Group Field, as the funding of professional sport is against federal policy.

"We are committed to funding amateur sports. We have been clear that we would not fund professional (stadiums)," a spokeswoman for Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal said in a statement.

"It has been a long-standing practice of the federal government to fund infrastructure for major multi-sport games like the Olympic and Pan American Games. In fact, the federal government paid for improvements for Canad Inns Stadium when the Pan American Games were held in Winnipeg in 1999."

Ottawa spent $3 million refurbishing Canad Inns Stadium before the 1999 Games and also contributed $1.5 million toward the construction of Shaw Park. In total, Ottawa contributed $56 million toward the 1999 Pan Am Games, including $7 million worth of GST rebates.

The federal contribution to the 2015 Toronto/Hamilton Games totals $670 million, including more than $456 million worth of infrastructure improvements.

Nonetheless, spokesmen for Premier Greg Selinger and Katz described Ottawa's commitment to both sets of games as comparable.

"The federal government provided support in 1999 for the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg and now is doing the same in Hamilton," a spokeswoman for Katz said in a statement.

"Manitoba's Pan Am Games legacy includes several sports and recreation facilities that received federal funding," added a Selinger spokesman in a statement. "Congratulations to Hamilton on their deal for a new stadium. Manitobans always look forward to watching the Bombers beat the Ticats, regardless of the venue."

The Winnipeg Football Club was equally gracious.

"The Hamilton stadium is being constructed for the Pan Am Games, an international event, in addition to the need for the Tiger-Cats, and as such qualifies for federal funding," Winnipeg Football Club spokesman Darren Cameron said in a statement.

"We are very happy for Bob Young, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their fans."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 18, 2012 A4

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