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Construction of six Pan Am venues delayed, mostly due to bad weather, say TO2015

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TORONTO - Construction of six venues for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games is running behind schedule, including a new Hamilton stadium, a key venue that's now expected to be finished in September.

The $145.7-million Tim Hortons Field was slated to open this month, a year before it was to host all 32 men's and women's soccer competitions. The delay has forced the Hamilton Tiger-Cats football team to use a smaller facility for the first two home games of the season.

"I haven't heard from the Tiger-Cats about the Tiger-Cats making an announcement. At the end of the day it's the same sort of thing like here," said CFL commissioner Mark Cohon from Ottawa prior to the Redblacks home opener. "Look at what's going to be here at the end of the day. Look at what's going to be in Hamilton at the end of the day: A world-class facility that's going to be not just for the next generation of fans but the next generation after that. People are going to be blown away by that facility when it's ready as well. It's taking a little bit of time but people are going to be really happy with it when it's done."

Completion dates for the Toronto track and field centre, a facility in Markham, the equestrian park in Caledon and the shooting centre in Cookstown have all been pushed back by a month or two.

The ballpark in Ajax was supposed to be completed by July, but phase two of the project is now expected to be finished in November. However, all the venues are expected to be ready well before the Games begin next July.

"We had a significantly difficult winter this past go-around, and I think you would understand the ball park being a challenge when you're trying to put a playing field in when you've got frozen ground," Murray Noble, TO2015's senior vice-president of infrastructure, said Friday.

"So some of those projects were truly to do with the weather."

The final phase of the Caledon equestrian park was pushed back from December 2014 to February 2015 to make it easier for the right contractors to bid on it, he added.

"All of our projects continue to be tracking very well for completion before the end of the year here, and certainly well within the time frames before the Games," he said.

Noble said he couldn't provide an exact date for the completion of the Hamilton stadium, saying the question should be directed to Infrastructure Ontario.

Infrastructure Ontario says it aims to hold a meeting at the end of the month to evaluate the status of stadium construction, which is currently more than 85 per cent complete.

Ontario's governing Liberals have been under fire for the stadium setback, but say taxpayers won't be on the hook for any cost overruns.

But the Ticats are taking a financial hit for every game they can't play in the new stadium, said New Democrat Paul Miller, who represents a Hamilton riding.

The team will have to use Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster University, which has 6,000 permanent seats and temporary seating for another 6,000.

Tim Hortons Field would have 22,500 permanent seats and a potential capacity of 40,000 through temporary seating. The province gave Hamilton $22.5 million for the stadium, which isn't part of the Pan Am budget.

"Who's going to cover that cost?" said Miller. "The city of Hamilton? Infrastructure Ontario? The Pan Am committee?"

TO2015 CEO Saad Rafi said questions about whether there would be any compensation for the Ticats would best be answered by Infrastructure Ontario. The Crown corporation wasn't immediately available for comment.

"Somebody's going to have to compensate them and at the end of the day, I think we all know that it's going to be the taxpayers that are on the hook for this," said Progressive Conservative Todd Smith.

Bad weather should be factored into such big projects, he said. The government should just admit publicly that preparations for the Games won't be finished on time or on budget.

But TO2015 said that the overall capital building program for the Games is still in line with their budget.

It spent $92.8 million in the quarter ending March 31, including $66 million on venue construction during the three months ending March 31, the organizing committee said Friday in its fourth-quarter financial report.

Venue construction spending is $387 million so far, about 53 per cent of the total original capital budget of $730 million, it said.

It includes $83.5 million for the Hamilton stadium, $148.4 million for an aquatics and field house and $24.8 million on an athletics stadium in Toronto and $53.9 million for the Markham centre, which will host badminton, table tennis and water polo competitions.

Operating expenses during the quarter were $26.8 million, mostly spent in the areas of corporate, technology, transportation, events and ceremonies and community and cultural affairs, it said.

Corporations have also put in an "incremental $43 million in value" worth of in-kind sponsorships for delivery of the Games, the committee said.

TO2015 said it has spent $126.9 million to date, about 15.7 per cent of its total operations budget of $810 million.

It reported $4,159 in travel and hospitality expenses for the quarter, bringing the total since last July to $23,136.

Rafi said the Games are expected to create 26,000 job and 84 per cent of the funding spent to procure goods and services has gone to Canadian companies.

The Games will take place at 34 different competition venues across the Golden Horseshoe, from Niagara in the south to Orillia in the north, running from July 7 to 26, followed by the Parapan Am Games Aug. 7 to 15.

The Liberals have also been criticized for the cost of security for the Games, admitting that the original $113 million built into the Pan Am budget was just a best guess and it may climb above the latest estimate of $239 million.

TO2015 said it couldn't provide the latest figures, saying it was in the hands of the Pan/Parapan Am Games Integrated Security Unit.

The report glosses over the construction delays, inflates the number of jobs that will be created and doesn't mention the amount of money that will be spent on security or transportation, Miller said.

"Every time (the Liberals) talk about it, they talk about the positive side of it," Miller said. "And that's fine, but they don't talk about the hidden negative side and they don't want the public to know that."

The total budget for the Games, including security, transportation and the athletes village is currently estimated at $2.5 billion.

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