By Kevin Werner, News staff
A final decision about whether Tim Hortons Field will be ready for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Aug. 16 home game will be made by July 31, said Infrastructure Ontario officials.
“We will assess the construction at that time,” executive vice-president of major projects John McKendrick told reporters on July 22.
During a short stadium update report to the city’s Pan Am Stadium Precinct subcommittee, Infrastructure Ontario officials and the contractor responsible for building the new facility, Ontario Sports Solutions, said there was some doubt about meeting the Aug. 16 home date for the Ticats. Instead, the builder told members of the subcommittee construction will be substantially completed by the Labour Day deadline.
“We are pushing them to get it done as fast as possible,” said McKendrick. “(The builder) is confident he will be ready for the Labour Day game.”
He said the contractor has about 580 workers on the construction site, working six-days a week.
“They are getting down to the stage now where they are installing the mechanical systems,” he said.
McKendrick confirmed Infrastructure Ontario is withholding about $89 million from the builder, after paying out about $25 million under the contract’s terms. He said it’s a further financial incentive for the builder to complete the job.
“So he has to finance all of that money,” said McKendrick. “He has to borrow it. He is not getting paid and he won’t get paid until he finishes.”
The stadium was scheduled to be substantially completed by June 30, under the terms of the contract. The deadline then was extended in the hope of making the stadium ready for the Tiger-Cats’ July 26 home game. Infrastructure Ontario officials even applied for an occupancy permit from the city on July 16, but were turned down. Soon after city officials, the province and Ontario Sports Solutions announced the stadium wouldn’t be ready for the football club’s July 26 and July 31 home games.
Hamilton’s Public Works general manager Gerry Davis said recently the construction will be assessed at the end of July, but it seems likely the Tiger-Cats will be playing on the road for another month.
“I feel badly for the coaches who have played on the road for so long and for our fans who have yet to see them,” said Glenn Gibson, the football club’s president and chief operating officer. “It weighs on me.”
The Tiger-Cats are scheduled to play Ottawa Saturday at McMaster University’s Ron Joyce Stadium, which seats about 5,500.
On July 31, Hamilton will play Winnipeg at Ron Joyce. The Tiger-Cats are scheduled to play Calgary Aug. 16 at home and Toronto in the traditional Labour Day Classic on Sept. 1.
The new $145.7 million Tim Hortons Field seats about 22,400 people.
Under the stadium agreement between the city and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, it was revealed earlier this year, the city will be responsible to recouping the estimated $1 million loss per game football club officials say they are experiencing. McKendrick said Infrastructure Ontario is enforcing the existing contract and at the moment there is no threat of legal action.
“No,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t letters being exchanged between us.”
Ward 3 councillor Bob Morrow, who represents the area where the stadium is located, said residents and the city will just have to endure the extended time schedule for the construction that is taking place.
“I’m as satisfied as I can be,” said Morrow. “(The Labour Day deadline) is fine as long as they can hold on to that.”