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Hamilton Pan Am stadium significantly delayed

Dena Fehir
Hamilton Pan Am stadium significantly delayed

After many delays, the Hamilton Pan Am soccer stadium will not meet its deadline.

Originally, the $145-million, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) project was slated to open in July 2014, but according to city officials, the new deadline given will pass without completion yet again.

"I highly doubt the (new) Jan. 30 deadline will be met for substantial completion of the structure," said Gerry Davis, head of public works during a recent meeting.

The developer is Ontario Sports Solutions, a Bouygues Building Canada/Kenaidan Contracting Ltd., joint venture.

"Ontario Sports Solutions needs to perform commissioning on the building systems and install a freight elevator," said Terence Foran, communications manager, civil infrastructure and commercial projects with IO.

Besides the freight elevator, Ward 12 Councillor Lloyd Ferguson says there is still outstanding work on electrical and mechanical systems.

"It’s unnerving. This is running seven to eight months late. The main concern is that it is ready for the Ti-Cats season and the Pan Am Games."

Ferguson, however, did say that the project is still on budget and is now expected to be complete by the end of February or perhaps even later than that.

Another major concern among city staff is traffic tie-ups and parking nightmares after learning the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) will take over all shuttle and parking services during the summer sporting event. The operations of the seven Pan Am venues have been bundled into the contract.

"That takes away from us controlling it," said Ferguson.

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla, along with Ferguson, was surprised by the change.

However, according to the MTO, a request for bids was posted publically and during discussions with city staff. They were determined to make the Hamilton venue part of the procurement and that it would "make sense."

Earlier this year, the organizing committee decided to create a satellite athletes’ village at McMaster University with the goal of avoiding potential tie-ups along the Queen Elizabeth Way to reach the Hamilton venue.

Meanwhile, the primary Pan Am Games athletes’ village will be located in downtown Toronto. To transport athletes from Toronto to Hamilton, MTO will be using Main Street West, along King Street to Gage Avenue.

The bottom line for the decision is to save money.

Spectators will be encouraged to use public transit or bicycles to get to the stadium, as it is expected that there will only be 3,100 parking spots and 1,000 for bicycles.

Ferguson is concerned that the province is taking over transit and parking operations, considering its questionable track record of failing to crack down on the contractor who is building the Pan Am stadium.

He says the buses are in terrible shape and he has doubts about their reliability. Between potential transit issues and the actual stadium delays, Ferguson says he is worried about the final outcome.

"You only get one chance to make a first impression. I want to make sure we do this right and show Hamilton to the world," he said.

Considering the Games are set to begin in July, the urgency for completion remains.

"Our priority is to ensure that the City of Hamilton receives the best possible facility. Even though the stadium has successfully hosted eight Ti-Cat games and a concert, the contract was structured to allow months of lead time for the City of Hamilton before they host soccer competitions during the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games," said Foran.

Also, three Hamilton Catholic high schools have been added to the revised practice schedule for the Pan Am soccer tournament.

Hamilton is the first host-municipality to reach its target for recruiting volunteers. Toronto2015 provided a goal of 1,500 volunteers from the Hamilton area.

As of the deadline, 2,833 are on board after security checks.

However, volunteer opportunities remain open as city representatives at the Commonwealth Games found that a great number of volunteers dropped out before the Games began.

The deadline for torchbearer nominations has passed.

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