Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kerrzy's Notebook: Forever Young?

A day later, and not much has changed on the Hamilton stadium front - the city still says it will try to convince its CFL team to join in on the project; the Tiger-Cats still say 'no way.'

There have been a few interesting developments in the aftermath of Hamilton city council's decision to go with the West Harbour site on both sides of the conflict though, despite neither side really budging.

For example, CFL commissioner Mark Cohon says he's backing owner Bob Young in the dispute, telling CBC Sports "We're talking about 141 years of history with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. This is not going to be resolved in one or two days."

"I look at this as the commissioner of the CFL, and having known Young for years, what Bob is trying to achieve is a long-term vision for the Tiger-Cats. He adopted a franchise that was essentially bankrupt. He's been the caretaker of that franchise and invested millions of his own dollars to help that franchise. The light at the end of the tunnel is a new stadium that will help him and help the fans for future generations."

Cohon went on to say this isn't about building a 15,000-seat stadium that'll only be used for two weeks - and that right there is likely one reason Young says the team couldn't be economically sustainable at West Harbour. That's half the number of seats at the team's current home, Ivor Wynne Stadium, which likely means half the revenue!

As for whether or not the team will relocate - Cohon said he wouldn't speculate, but would like to see both sides work things out in Hamilton.

Young spoke to the FAN 590 (via TSN), calling the decision a "massive mistake" that may "end the Ti-Cats in Hamilton." Meanwhile, team president Scott Mitchell responded "no, no and no again" when The Hamilton Spectator asked if there was a chance they would re-join negotiations on the stadium front.

"When you ask if we'll come back to the table, for what? Nothing has changed of any substance since their initial offer to us way back in February of a 15,000-seat stadium in the west harbour. At the end of the day, whether it's Bob Young or anybody else, no owner is going to own a team that they're convinced they're going to lose millions of dollars on. Nobody."

When asked what happens next, all Mitchell would talk about is winning football games.

On the city's side of things, there's some local flavour to what's going on with the Katz Group involved and being looked at as an "intriguing option," if the Ti-Cats don't want to talk (which seems to be the case).

The Spec says that earlier this summer the Katz Group begun the process of "negotiating a memorandum of agreement about attracting an NHL team, managing Copps Coliseum and possibly a west harbour stadium with both football and a pro soccer team."

Councillor Lloyd Ferguson says he kept in touch with the group through a local businessman and the city should listen to what they have to say.

"Anyone who wants to drop a $1-million cheque on the table is serious, I think. Business people don't throw that kind of money away. Clearly they have a plan, clearly they think they can execute, so absolutely we have to listen to them."

I find it very interesting that the CFL is siding with Young and the Ti-Cats here, especially after a 12-3 vote in favour of West Harbour.

That sends a strong message from the league to council that they might have 'got it wrong.' Whether those statements from Cohon change anything, I don't know, but it's certainly a feather in Bob Young's cap that the CFL is in his corner. How the city expects the Ti-Cats to be excited about a 15,000-seat stadium is beyond me, when they're prepared to front a bunch of money for the project.

You save a team that's the heart and soul of a community from going bankrupt and pump millions of your own dollars into getting the franchise back on solid footing, and this is the thanks you get?

As for the Katz Group's involvement, it seems like that's more a 'life after football' avenue for the city.

In order for the Tiger-Cats to stay in Hamilton, it looks like one side of the conflict is going to have to swallow some pride and give in to the other - which side will it be?

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