How important do you think a permanent Velodrome is to Hamilton, and do you believe the investment required, is worthwhile?
Please consider the following responses from Herman Turkstra, Larry Di Ianni, Mark Alan Whittle and Marvin Ryder, and feel free to add your own:
If we review our City's history with major tax funded projects, about the only success stories are the art gallery, Theatre Aquarius and our conservation areas. I have to make this comment in the context that I was part of the team that
approved Hamilton Place (although I seriously campaigned to restore the Palace theatre for millions less and put the extra dollars into a performing arts sustaining fund.)
Our track record on tax funded city owned projects is pretty dismal. Ivor Wynne runs a huge deficit. Hamilton Place, Copps and the Convention Centre are dismal failures. We've spent millions of dollars over the last generation on consultants with Coney Island fantasies about the west harbor and our fabulous lakeside waterfront, all to no avail.
What we seem to do well is modest projects that have a strong community base of support and activism. Like our amateur sports facilities, buildings with no name that just seem to work. On the other hand our three success stories all have something in common - a team of zealous committed volunteers ready to work, work, and work, and evangelize and hustle for years.
So at this moment I really have no idea whether its a good idea or not. I do not see the evangelical team of dedicated cyclists ready to make it happen. At the moment it seems to be an idea starting in City Hall. Based on our track record, that almost guarantees failure. As a municipality, we simply have no decent track record on big projects run by City Hall. Not the airport. Not the sewage treatment plant. If a velodrome can be a success, someone will have to propose a radically different development and management structure than using a few folks from Council and city staff.
Herman Turkstra, Lawyer, Activist
The original Velodrome was supposed to be a temporary $11.5 million structure that could be dismantled after the TO2015 games. Today it has become a $50 million permanent structure. The city-hall committee struck to steer this project along had the Mohawk College proposal dropped in their laps at the last minute. The number one choice, before that, was McQueston Park, near Limeridge Mall. The old site first proposed for the Velodrome was the toxic Rheem property in the west harbour area. Now city hall will abandon that location and cancel all expropriations not completed, thereby leaving a $10 million dollar deficit in its wake. The Velodrome, unlike the new stadium, does not have a tenant willing to pay millions in rent, like the owner of the Tiger-Cats is willing to do, and spend millions more within the community, 600 programs in all. As a taxpayer I would be willing to have a $25 dollar surcharge on my property tax bill for the next four years until the Velodrome opens. After all we get a $152 million dollar stadium for $50 million and we get a 250m $50 million Velodrome for only $20 million. Failing that, Hamilton should debt finance the whole project over a thirty year life-span.
Mark-Alan Whittle, Registered Lobbyist, Engaged Hamiltonian
In terms of your question, please understand that I am a cycling enthusiast having gone to the 1976 Olympics with a month old newborn and wife to see the cycling event, went to the Greek Olympics in Athens a few years ago and cheered our very own Sue Palmer-Komar; and was in 7th heaven for the Hamilton Bike race World Championships in 2003. So, I'm a fan.
But the Velodrome issue for me is one of cost and affordability. If Hamilton has to come up with $20M, it just can't be done and that is a shame. As with the stadiium debate things have been left far too long; the planning and the money should have been lined up two years ago. It was ludicrous at the last meeting for Council to give itself two weeks to come up with appropriate funding. Good luck; but it will be nearly impossible to do.
Larry Di Ianni, Host- Hamilton Talks, former Mayor of Hamilton
Usually on the capital side, the equation is pretty good - for every one dollar invested by the City, others will invest two dollars or three dollars or four dollars. The key, then, is on the operational side. After the PanAm Games, what kinds of revenue can such a facility attract and what will be the cost to operate/maintain it. This is where the problem arises. The original PanAm plan had only a temporary velodrome in it because the operational picture looked bleak. Only if those numbers have changed should Hamilton consider this investment.
Post-script - I recently visited Montreal where the permanent velodrome built for the 1976 Olympics has been converted to a Biodome which allows visitors to walk through four different eco-systems. It could be considered a compliment to the Biosphere which was created from the conversion of the former American pavillion of Expo 67. It would be interesting to know why that velodrome ceased being used as such!
Marvin Ryder, University Professor
Thanks to our panel. Your thoughts?