2030 Commonwealth Games in Hamilton comes with massive price tag

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Published February 19, 2020 at 8:42 pm

“You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take,” quoted Mayor Fred Eisenberger at Wednesday’s (Feb. 19) General Issues Committee meeting.

“You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take,” quoted Mayor Fred Eisenberger at Wednesday’s (Feb. 19) General Issues Committee meeting.

Eisenberger evoked Wayne Gretzky’s famous words when responding to a presentation from members of Hamilton100, the group orchestrating the city’s bid for the 2030 Commonwealth Games.

“[The 2030 Commonwealth Games] is a shot we have to take,” he said.

PJ Mercanti, who heads Hamilton100, offered councillors a more in-depth and impassioned look at the proposal and financials associated with hosting the games and urged the city to officially endorse phase 2 of the bidding process.

Phase 2 will be submitted to Commonwealth Games Canada on March 9 and the group will determine who the potential Canadian host city will be by March 31.

Hamilton is in competition with Calgary who is pitching to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

The first-ever Commonwealth Games, known at the time as the British Empire Games, was held in Hamilton in 1930.

“Since we started this process, it’s been an unstoppable force,” Mercanti said, referencing the number of local organizations, businesses and institutions that have turned out to back the bidding process. Mercanti says that they have engaged more than 60 groups so far.

“This process has made me even more proud to be a Hamiltonian,” he said, citing the outpouring of support from the community as the reason.

Mercanti said the proposal’s focus on sustainability, inclusivity and social responsibility will, if the bid moves forward, act as a ‘catalyst’ for responsible and thoughtful community building that will benefit generations of Hamiltonians to come.

The proposal envisions upgrades to existing facilities and the creation of others in communities like Glanbrook and Waterdown and at Confederation Park, among others. All construction will be done with the aim of improving facilities’ efficiencies.

While residences at McMaster and Mohawk would house some athletes and Games employees and volunteers, Hamilton100 says that there will need to be approximately 500 to 700 housing units built to house Commonwealth Games participants.

After the Games, however, 80 per cent of those would be converted to geared-to-income housing while the remaining 20 per cent would be offered at market value.

An approximate cost of hosting the Games is estimated at $1.425 billion.

Much of that could be subsidized by Federal and Provincial funds.

The municipal contribution could be between $200 to $300 million but that and doesn’t include cost reduction opportunities via venue naming rights, institutional/private sector/community partnerships, city land contribution, and contributions from other participating municipalities/institutions, a city staff report points out.

The cost of building an athletes’ village is also not included.

City staff presented on the heels of Hamilton100 at the GIC meeting.

The city’s General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services Mike Zegarac told committee members that if Hamilton is determined to be the Canadian contender to host, that is when negotiations begin with the provincial and federal governments to determine the funding structure.

Zegarac pointed out to councillors that in order to meet the obligations associated with hosting the Games, several other significant projects may have to be deferred.

Several councillors raised concerns over this possibility. Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson in particular worried that projects that have been prioritized and which would serve more vulnerable Hamiltonians will be pushed back.

Wilson questioned when the talks about reprioritizing would happen and just how difficult the prospect would be.

Councillors John-Paul Danko and Nrinder Nann echoed Wilson’s reservations and the three councillors voted against a motion put forth by Eisenberger to endorse Hamilton100’s phase 2 bid, but it wasn’t enough to put down the motion.

Most councillors were caught up in Hamilton100’s enthusiasm for the project.

“We can’t waste all the efforts of Hamilton100,” said Councillor Tom Jackson in voicing his support for council’s endorsement.

Jackson tempered his expectations, however, citing his involvement in previous Commonwealth Games bids which Hamilton lost.

“I don’t want to be a bridesmaid for the third time.”

The attitude that there was no harm in seeing the bid to the next phase of the bidding process prevailed around the horseshoe though.

The committee also heard from Cecilia Carter-Smith who is part of the Hamilton100 contingent after Eisenberger called for her input.

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world,” she said. “There’s no place in the world like Hamilton. I know we have our issues, don’t get me wrong. Generally, our warm welcome atmosphere is unparalleled on Mother Earth.”

While the GIC approved sending a letter of endorsement, the final decision will be left up to City Council to vote on later this month.

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