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Downtown entertainment precinct investments part of Commonwealth Games budget

The Hamilton Commonwealth Games bid committee has released its facilities budget for the games. The plan calls for the expenditure of $258.5 Million spread over 18 venues in Hamilton as well as Venues in Brampton(Cricket), Milton (indoor cycling), Six Nations (lacrosse), Burlington (lawn bowling), Welland (triathlon) and Brock University (Wrestling).

Hamilton facilities that will be used for events include: Sackville Hill Sports Park – Field House (athletics), Hamilton Convention Centre (table tennis), Ancaster Multisport Complex (badminton). Eastwood Park (3×3 basketball), Confederation Park (Beach Volleyball), Grightmire Arena Dundas (Boxing), Tim Horton Field (Opening Ceremonies, rugby), First Ontario Centre (Gymnastics-artistic, Closing Ceremony), McMaster Aquatics Centre (Swimming),  and First Ontario Concert Hall (weightlifting).

Included in the $258 Million facilities budget is roughly $78 Million earmarked for First Ontario Arena ($65 Million), the Convention Centre ($10Million) and First Ontario Concert Hall ($3.125 Million). These same facilities are part of a deal that the city recently announced that will be negotiated with a consortium headed by the Carmen’s Group, who are also at the centre of the Commonwealth Games bid team, to refurbish and then operate the three entertainment facilities.

We asked Hamilton games bid spokesperson Lou Frapporti why the entertainment precinct investments were being included in the Commonwealth Games budget. Mr Frapporti confirmed that “these investments are being counted towards the “municipal share” of the Games.  Therefore for every $1 that the private sector puts into the downtown assets a $1 is counted towards the City’s share of a Games investments.   Alignment of the downtown renewal project by the private sector was one of the reasons our committee felt it timely to secure the Games as it is critical to the economics in circumstances, as here, where the city does not wish to invest new money into securing the Games but would nonetheless wish the provincial and federal governments to subsidize the event.    In this case, the city is able to ‘get the benefit’ of the investment without having to actually pay for it. “

Both PJ Mercanti of Carmen’s Group and Ryan McHugh, the City of Hamilton point person negotiating the Entertainment Precinct deal say the two mega projects  do not depend on each other for success. Mr. Mercanti wrote, “The Precinct investment goes on regardless of the Games. It’s just that the Precinct investment becomes a catalyst to make a Games economically feasible for the municipality.” Mr. McHugh wrote in a similar vein, “The Downtown Entertainment Precinct deal outlined in the press release, would not be contingent on Hamilton securing the Commonwealth Games.”

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