By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The outcome of Labour Day Classic between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts is in the hands of the city’s building department.
Building inspectors will determine Thursday and Friday if the $145.7 million Tim Hortons Field is ready to host the CFL football game Sept.1 and that it’s safe for the thousands of people that are expecting to attend what would be a historic game in the long-awaited stadium. However, if the stadium isn’t ready for the game, then it will be moved down the QEW to the Argos home at Rogers Centre, Ticat chief executive officer Scott Mitchell said during a news conference Aug. 25.
“I have a lot of confidence (the game will be played) but it is up to the building department,” said Glenn Gibson, chief operating officer of the Tiger-Cats. “They will make the call.”
Greg Stack, vice-president of Kenaidan Consulting, told Hamilton politicians Aug. 26 during the Pan Am Precinct subcommittee meeting that holding the football game is on Sept. 1 is “attainable.” But he refused to commit 100 per cent that construction will be completed enough that the game will be played. He said construction currently is at 85 per cent completion.
“The next few days are critical,” he said. “A number of tests will be done to obtain a temporary occupancy permit. Our expectation for an occupancy permit is well above 50 per cent. We can’t make a 100 per cent commitment.”
He said tests will be on-going at the site Aug. 28 and 29 to make sure everything works properly and to meet the requirements as laid out by city officials and the fire marshal. Those tests include installation of handrails, sprinkler systems and fire alarms. The stadium builders applied for a temporary occupancy permit Aug. 19 in a process that usually takes five business days.
“We are making sure any little glitch that may come up that we can resolve quickly,” said Stack. “Safety will not be put at risk.”
The city’s chief building official, Ed VanderWindt, confirmed the upper bowl of the stadium won’t be ready, and there will be no elevators operating. To accommodate physically challenged people, space on the north patio will be ready to accommodate 40 wheelchairs on game day. If the stadium is open, it will only accommodate 18,000 people.
City and provincial officials confirm Ontario Sports Solutions, the consortium constructing the facility, has been double and even triple shifting workers to reach the Sept. 1 deadline.
“Encouraging progress has been made over the last week,” said John McKendrick, senior vice-president for project delivery for Infrastructure Ontario.
He confirmed the province is holding back $89 million of the $119 million that Ontario Sports Solutions is contracted for the stadium.
“We are all over them,” said McKendrick. “We’ve been phoning the presidents of the companies. We are putting pressure on them every day. There has been a bit of yelling and screaming here and there.”
The stadium was expected to be ready by June 30 to host the Tiger-Cats’ home games. But design issues, a long, cold winter, and a contractor facing bankruptcy, delayed the construction for about six weeks. Still, deadlines had been set for July then August, with the Sept. 1 deadline now in jeopardy. Under the contract, Oct. 2 is the date when the stadium needed to be substantially completed.
Stack told councillors that date “has not been changed.”
Tiger-Cat officials and city representatives are also on the worksite every day monitoring the progress, they say.
“We are very positive what we have seen,” said Gibson. “If there is a will there is a way, but it has to be in a safe environment for our fans.”
Gibson confirmed there will be about 400 more parking spots available during the game on the site of the former Dominion Glass plant, which the city recently purchased as well, broadcasting, and beverage officials have toured the area in anticipation of the game being held. If the Cats get the green-light from the city, crowds will be funneled through the south plaza in what will still be considered a construction site.
“(The facility) is absolutely spectacular,” said Gibson. “This is the most anticipated event that we have seen in the last 100 years in this city.”