PASTOR VALLE-GARAY: Hamilton, Grow up!

Hamilton must wake up. Fast. Otherwise it will lose a unique opportunity to revitalize the city’s core, attract well-deserved international recognition and become the laughing stock of the 2015 Pan American Games. Regardless of the political bickering generated on Friday by the contradictory statements emanating from the offices of Premier Dalton McGuinty, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other vested interested, Mayor Fred Eisenberger and city council must take immediate action and vote in favour of the West Harbour site. Anything else would be a colossal waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Hamilton can’t afford either luxury.

The report examining the two proposed sites, released by the city staff on Friday, makes a lot of economic and practical sense. It concludes that the east Mountain site would cost tens of millions of dollars more than west harbour. In other words, building the stadium at west harbour would save taxpayers millions of dollars and untold future headaches while providing the city with a first class sports venue.

While McGuinty and Harper engage in their usual photo-op political grandstanding with an eye on electoral votes, Hamilton needs to set its sights on the long term benefits. Next to the Summer Olympics and the World Cup no other sport event attracts as much world-wide attention as the Pan American Games. Hundreds of thousands attend the games and hundreds of millions watch them on television. For Hamilton’s trade, industry and tourism this is a bonanza served on a silver platter.

Hamilton however must act fast and cut the tangled umbilical cord from Toronto and from Ottawa before it is too late. The signs are already ominous. At the beginning of the year the city missed an opportunity to house a professional hockey team. It would have given Hamilton’s economy a much-needed shot in the arm for years to come. A few weeks ago the Track and Field competition, the Pan American Games’ premier event, originally scheduled for the Hamilton site, was lost to Toronto. It will now probably be held at York University.

Any further vacillating on the part of city council may cost Hamilton the Pan American venue. Such move would be of disastrous consequences to a city that the rest of the world would view as either too incapable or too unwilling to host major international events. Hamilton needs to grow up, build the stadium in west harbour and prepare to welcome the Pan American Games and the international community as a truly world-class city. The ball is now in the city council’s court and no one must interfere with the council’s decision.

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