TORONTO - “We have,” says Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, “our act together.”
Now opening in Hamilton.
The sequel to Dumb and Dumber.
Starring, Bob Young, cast as community philanthropist or the craftiest business opportunist this side of Charles Montgomery Burns.
Then, there is Eisenberger, as the earnest, idealist (some might suggest misguided) mayor.
Co-starring: Your Hamilton Ticats and a cast of lemmings with city council business cards looking for the nearest cliff.
This burg’s titular heads and Young, the Ticats’ owner, are staring down the throat — or some might suggest the southern end — of the proverbial gift horse.
The federal and provincial government want to help fund a new stadium that eventually could replace Ivor Wynne, built in 1930.
This is a city that already built a rink for an NHL team without ever having a team.
Realizing how silly that idea was, they are now tinkering with the concept of having a stadium without a CFL team.
Hamilton is like Charlie Brown.
A lovable loser.
Too often, it has only itself to blame.
In this case, the 2015 Pan Am Games bid includes a proposed 15,000-seat stadium, with financial aid from the upper levels of government.
All the city had to do was chip in $60 million and — after the Games — the Ticats, Young with private investors and/or the city could retrofit the stadium to seat 30,000 fans for football.
The city doesn’t have to worry about finding millions to keep Ivor Wynne from turning into the world’s biggest port-a-potty for seagulls.
The Ticats get a new park.
Everyone gets new revenue streams.
Fans get new seats from which to insult Argonauts.
Happy days, right?
And, then you remember. These are the guys who couldn’t decide what colour to paint the seats at Copps Coliseum, so they made them all different.
Stepping inside was like a flashback into someone’s bad acid trip in the psychedelic ’60s.
No wonder the place gave Gary Bettman nightmares.
Nobody can muck up athletic enterprises quicker than well-intentioned politicians or special-interest groups.
And the fingerprints of both are all over these Pan Am Games and the Hamilton bun-fight.
City council and the mayor want to dislodge a couple of winos and put the stadium on blighted land as part of a western waterfront renewal project.
The Ticats want to dislodge a wandering bovine, Mr. Mole or Peter Rabbit in open areas near freeways with accessible parking space with more commercial visibility.
In other words sponsorship.
Young is seeking a location where a private company could hang their marquee on the building and have millions of eyes pay homage on the daily ascension of the masses to nirvana — also referred to as Toronto. (Hey! I saw that finger. And, don’t tell me you were just picking the slag out of your nose, Steelboy.)
Both ideas have merit, although the National Cycling Centre Hamilton is also opposed to putting the Pan Am velodrome on the waterfront due to similar accessibility issues.
Both ideas have downsides. But then what major project doesn’t?
Instead of just saying thank you and getting on with making things work, there is now a good chance the city will miss the May 17 deadline to notify Games’ organizers of the stadium location.
This is a bit like winning the lottery — but telling organizers not to deliver the multi-million dollar prize because you can’t decide which bank account to put it in.
Young claims the waterfront site would be a financial lemon.
Eisenberger, sounding like Gary Bettman defending the blueline in Phoenix against all comers, vows: “No other sites are being contemplated.”
To sort out the mess there is now talk of bringing in a “facilitator”. A facilitator is like your mother when she had to come out to the sandbox and break up the argument over who got to play with the really big Tonka truck.
The difference is that mom, unlike professional arbitrators, always worked for free — and she got things done a darn sight faster.
Besides, aren’t we already paying our politicians to, well, you know ... “facilitate”.
Instead we get two sides in an argument and both sound like losers.
The reason for supporting, funding and backing these Games was for the legacy of athletic facilities that they would leave.
Many events in the Pan Am Games are not a big draw in this country. When it comes to something like equestrian riding, you’d get more feedback talking to the horse than most Canadians. And, when was the last time you entered the office field-hockey pool?
So, the purpose of supporting the 2015 bid wasn’t because the public was clamouring to see if the Cubans could break their record for the fastest defection in a Pan Am Games.
Hamilton agreed to get involved if it could host track and field and get a new stadium to house its CFL team.
While it is understandable that city council would like to rebuild the waterfront, the Games and Ticats don’t deserve to be held hostage in those attempts.
Eisenberger maintains that he’s “looking after the taxpayers’ interests first and foremost.”
But Young could claim the same thing.
He’s already thrown millions at the Ticats to keep the team afloat.
Were it not for his investment — some sources say he’s lost up to $30 million since buying the team in 2003 — they could’ve called in the OSPCA needle-merchants to put this pussy-cat out of its misery ages ago.
If a stadium built on the harbour site proves economically to be a bigger dog than some Ticats’ quarterbacks, or more to the point should Young bail as owner, this team could be history.
There isn’t a big lineup of people looking to take over ownership just so they can commit financial suicide.
Take the Oskee-Wee-Wee out of Hamilton and there isn’t any point in the city even having a stadium.
If city council got its harbour stadium, but lost its only major tenant, all this good that was supposed to come from the Games will be just another lost opportunity for Hamilton.
Is that still good for the taxpayer?
And where is the legacy in that?