Unless the city of Hamilton or the owner of the Tiger-Cats has a sudden change of heart, Ottawa won’t be the only new team in the CFL in the coming years.
Hamilton city council voted 12-3 on Tuesday night to move forward with a stadium at the West Harbour site for the 2015 Pan Am Games, which would also be the future home of the Ti-Cats – though at this point, it might just be an empty barn.
On Monday, Ti-Cats owner Bob Young sent a letter to Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisdenberger telling him that they were withdrawing from stadium negotiations and walking away from the situation – and taking the millions of dollars he promised to inject into the project with him.
The Hamilton Spectator quotes Tiger-Cats president Scott Mitchell as saying that Young’s offer to contribute as much as $55-million (for construction and parking spaces), along with $1.5-million in yearly operating costs, are now off the table.
That leaves the city with a big chunk of change to make up for, not to mention the fact that as of right now, there is no permanent tenant for the brand new stadium, which Young has hinted his team would never move to.
Why does Young hate the West Harbour? Here’s an excerpt from his letter explaining it:
“The West Harbour option which you personally have driven gives the Tiger-Cats no hope of running a sustainable business. Using “best practice” criteria, and confirmed by leading experts around North America, this proposed stadium would rank dead last in North America in terms of usability for its tenants. It imposes a logistical nightmare for fans, particularly the “regional fans” that Mr. Fenn describes as vital to our survival. As such, I cannot be part of a process that destines us to financial failure before the first shovel goes in the ground.”
Another thing that is rumored to have soured the relationship between Young and the city of Hamilton was the Katz Group declaring its interest about running a stadium and Copps Coliseum.
A friend of Young, businessman Ron Foxcroft, told the Hamilton newspaper "It was the city chasing the phony tooth fairy dream with the (Edmonton) Oilers that lit the fuse, that caused the relationship to explode."
The Ti-Cats had offered up even more money if they were to manage the stadium.
So, if not Hamilton – where will the team play?
To move the team, Young would have to apply for a transfer and convince the league’s board of directors that the team would work in a new market, which shouldn’t be too hard.
There are rumors that Quebec City could be a potential suitor for the franchise, though the stadium at Laval University would probably need to be expanded for such a move to happen. The Laval Rouge et Or are a CIS powerhouse with probably the best attendance of any football program in the country – you’d have to assume that would be seriously affected by the arrival of a CFL club.
The other main rumor out there has the team moving to Ottawa, where Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group has a provisional CFL expansion franchise set to join the league in 2013. Jeff Hunt tells The Spec though that the company is “sticking with plans to stock a team through an expansion draft,” rather than relocation.
There’s also the possibility that the Tiger-Cats work things out with the city and they stay put, which would be the best thing for the city, but there are people who don’t think Young is bluffing.
“We will play out our days at Ivor Wynne,” says Young – but where will they end up in 2012?
What do you think?