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Fumbling Tim Hortons Field

If anybody in Hamilton was surprised that Infrastructure Ontario and Ontario Sports Solutions, the consortium building the new Tim Hortons Field, won’t be finished the stadium until, at the earliest, August, then they must have been living in a cave.

The determination to demolish Ivor Wynne, and build the $145-million stadium on the same location within 16-months was ambitious to even contemplate.

Infrastructure Ontario did warn the city and the Tiger-Cats about possible delays, urging them to create contingency plans. Yet, the football club and the contractor continued to paint a sunny picture that essentially amounted to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” despite weather problems and contractor issues.

The original deadline to have the stadium substantially completed was the end of June. Then it was the end of July. Now there are questions as to whether the stadium will be ready for Labour Day.

How many more times will the deadline be pushed back until questions will be asked and people held accountable?

City officials and politicians were agreeable to the official pronouncements either because they were in on the attempt to present a smiley face on what has turned into a black mark on Hamilton’s ability to deliver an “on time, under budget” project, or they were misled by Infrastructure Ontario and the contractor.

Tiger-Cat officials continued to swat away questions about contingency plans for their first home game in July even when it became obvious there was a problem. CEO Glenn Gibson said in late April,

“I’m very positive (and) optimistic we’ll be ready. Why make a story when there is no story?”

And when the Ticats were forced to come up with a contingency plan? It’s back to McMaster’s 6,000-seat stadium, but with no agreement for any games beyond July.

So, who is responsible for what is a colossal mess up? Fingers can be pointed all around, from the secretive and controlling Infrastructure Ontario, which selected the contractor that boasted it could meet the difficult deadlines, to the city and politicians for all the political wrangling to pick a stadium site, and even the Tiger-Cats themselves which blocked possible stadium locations. Still, the Ticats will benefit from the delay, since the developer will pay $1 million to the club for each home game missed.

But the real losers are the taxpayers and public who are footing the bill. Season ticket holders who expected to be in the cozy confines of Tim Horton Fields, will now be fighting to get a cold seat at Ron Joyce. And the surrounding homeowners in Hamilton’s west end will also end up paying a price for the Tiger-Cats “game day experience.”

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