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Hamilton, Ticats take step toward common ground

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are on the prowl for a permanent den - and it may yet be in Steeltown.

The CFL team, still looking to replace aging Ivor Wynne Stadium, was told Tuesday that Hamilton will spend two weeks examining yet another potential stadium site, following a 13-2 vote by city council to consider a 2015 Pan American Games venue that would subsequently become the Ticats' new home.

Hamilton council voted in favour of examining the potential of putting a stadium on a 35-acre location in McMaster Innovation Park in the city's southwest. (Innovation Park was supposed to be used to house firms involved in innovation, but little has happened along those lines.)

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Council's vote did not eliminate the West Harbour stadium location previously recommended by the city and championed by Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, but it did reopen a door for Ticats owner Bob Young.

The Ticats had previously declined participation in building on the West Harbour, and publicly pushed in favour of a site in the city's East Mountain area. The team has been reportedly wooed by Ottawa and Oshawa, Ont., interests since, but Young said he'd reconsider staying if another, favourable site could be agreed on.

A letter from Young to Eisenberger - and copied to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games chief Ian Troop and Canadian Senator David Braley (who also owns the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts of the CFL) - said the Ticats are still interested in staying in Hamilton, especially in light of the new proposal.

"[Innovation Park]does represent the essential sports stadium requirements of highway exposure, access and egress for stadium visitors, public transit, being situated in a commercial/industrial area conducive to hosting as many large audience events as possible without disruption to a neighbourhood residential community," the letter said.

The proposed stadium should bring as many events as possible to Hamilton, Young's letter said. These would include a new NASL soccer franchise and a high-performance soccer academy.

In a statement Tuesday, Troop said the 2015 Pan Am organizing committee "applauds the city's determination to find a solution. We are encouraged by its clear and unified direction today to work aggressively on a plan to optimize its Games involvement. We are acutely aware that this new direction may be Toronto 2015's last opportunity to kick-start a stadium in Hamilton."

Tuesday's 13-2 vote went beyond the two-thirds majority required to for city manager Chris Murray to begin negotiations regarding property with McMaster University and the CFL club.

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The Innovation Park site is considered a "brown field," not attractive for development as real estate for homes.

Murray told councillors Pan Am planners will proceed on a "dual track" for the time being, supporting a possible new stadium location. He said Pan Am organizers will require a report by Sept. 14 - a date Troop said "is critical to have the City of Hamilton and the Tiger-Cats committing to a co-operative partnership."

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About the Author
Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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