Thursday, October 07, 2010

Hey, here's the rout I take when I bike home

Untitled by at Garmin Connect - Details

This is the route I usually take when I bike home from work/school/SJAM. I've been doing it for over ten years, varying the route somewhat. I used to go to the top of the hill at York and Dundurn, until the advent of Google Earth, wherein I could see that, not only was I engaging an unnecessary and challenging uphill climb, but I was also going a much less direct route than the side streets.

I soon abandoned the side streets, as well in favour of the main arterial roads. Granted, they are more dangerous but they're much quicker. This is even factoring in that they, too, are less direct. There's nothing like hitting the green lights (as opposed to stop signs and pedestrian traffic) at 35km/hour! The turning lane at the corner of Main and Queen can be a bit harrowing to navigate but, so far so good.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

West Harbour, or no stadium

My friend Samantha asked, so here's my answer. The West Harbour is the best location for the proposed Pan-Am Stadium (if there's even one to be built at this point).

You asked why the location matters, because jobs will be created no matter where its put. Many of the nay-sayers would disagree with you, arguing that the stadium will have little economic impact. My take is that the stadium, combined with a few other things will create synergies that will greatly assist in reviving the downtown core. Chief among these is the arrival of LRT (light rail transit). Ten dates a year, plus whatever else will go on in the stadium may be enough for a few businesses to consider setting up shop in the downtown, (restaurants, hotels), and may serve to increase property values in the adjacent areas.

The City, Waterfront Trust, etc. are already doing an excellent job in managing and reviving the north end, particularly in the areas around Bayfront Park, Pier 4, Pier 8, etc. However, there is still the daunting task of the brownfields of abandoned industry, chiefly the Rheem property. The large amounts of cash that are coming in from all levels of government are just what the doctor ordered in getting these areas cleaned up. They are not only a hideous eyseore, but present a real environmental danger if not addressed.

Furthermore, the stadium will be adjacent to existing rail infrastructure. One of the great successes of Toronto's professional sports facilities, is their proximity to commuter rail. Anyone who actuallly drives to and Argos, Blue Jays, Leafs or Toronto FC game is an idiot, because of the ease, efficiency and cheapness of a GO train ticket - the same service that can be provided to the new stadium location. There's no signficant rail infrastructure anywhere near the East Mountain site.

Bob Young lauds the east mountain stadium location because of the convenience of the "driveway to driveway" experience. We talk about stadiums and the first question we ask is "How easy will it to be to get to by car"? This needs to become outdated thinking, as the now-seemingly visionary people though (likely by accident) when they decided to put both the Rogers Centre (né Skydome) and the ACC right downtown Toronto. Rather, we should be turning this question on its ear and ask, with the stadium where it is, what's the best way to get there? I would love to see the statistics as to the number of people taking public transit to pro sporting events in Toronto. I think we could match it here in Hamilton.

Bob Young argues that a stadium downtown will doom his business operation to failure in perpetuity, as if the first question people ask when considering whether to attend a game is "how easy is it to get to by car?". If there is a demand for the on-field product, then people will go, no matter which way is more convenient to get there. Its not "build it, and they will come", but "put a decent product on the field, and they will come". Not to put too fine a point on it, but Mr. Young has certainly had his challenges in that department since taking over the team.

As needed as the west harbour site is for the purposes of core revival, it pales in comparison to the disaster of building it at the east mountain. I respect Mr. Young's position in wanting the best location for his business but, in addition to subscribing to what I hope is becoming an outmoded car-centric paradigm, that location would be a further and egregious foray into suburban sprawl. Many have argued that there is plenty of space in the Ontario Realty Corporation (ORC) lands proposed in the Fenn "compromise". Granted, but just because their is empty green space, that is no reason to automatically develop it! We cannot continue to expand outwards while we let the core rot; it is simply bad urban planning. Servicing the stadium (sewers, hydro ) will be expensive enough. In addition, although not qualified to say, I am worried about the proximity of protected environmental lands, chiefly the Eramosa Karst. Karst, as you might be aware, is land that is eroded away underneath the surface by underground waters, resulting in caves etc. Is the proposed land for the east mountain site even stable enough? Perhaps it is, but when I'm on a nature hike with my family exploring the caves, the last thing I want is Stadium noise from the Labour Day classic!

This is not about building a stadium for the Tiger-Cats, its about the Pan-Am Games and the legacy it was supposed to leave. Locally, we have already been deprived of any track and field legacy, thanks in large part to this debate. The feds. and province are to kick in $54 million each, with the city adding $60 million from the Future Fund. The Tiger-Cat contribution? He proposed $15 million and that was from his east mountain pitch (with, admittedly, other not-necessarily out of pocket costs down the road). In this proportion, Bob Young has no right to be calling the shots on location.

As for the Grey Cup, no 25,000 seat stadium can host the game without temporary seating. I don't think either location has a greater advantage over the other in terms of hosting one of these; temporary seats are always brought in for games not played at either Olympic Stadium, Rogers Centre, Commonwealth Stadium or BC Place. Any time its on the prairies, you see temporary seating. Not really an issue.

At the end of the day, I fear we may lose the stadium altogether for two reasons. First, if the Tiger-Cats don't come back to the table, there is no anchor tenant and the city doesn't meet a key funding requirement from both the Pan-Am Games and the two levels of government. Secondly, and perhaps more immediately, the Pan-Am Host Committee may come to its senses and realize they are building one stadium too many. Once they made the unholy decision to move track out of Hamilton and to Toronto, they effectively committed themselves to building, at the very least, a 15,000 seat stadium for track and field there (a facility which, if my guess is correct, will soon be taken over by the Toronto Argonauts, track moved out, and you got us nowhere, Athletics Canada! But I digress). Why, with BMO field and the proposed new facility in Burlington, would they even need a third soccer venue? Were they merely placating local sensitivities by swapping track for soccer, without first thinking about the fiscal consequences? The way these oily people in suits operate, I would NOT be surprised to see an abrupt announcement in the coming months, nay weeks, that no stadium will be built in Hamilton, with the whole Ti-Cat situation cited as their flimsy excuse.

I just hope the velodrome doesn't follow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The stupid stadium debate just got stupider, thanks to our friends at Athletics Canada

For those of you who don't live in Hamilton (or don't otherwise care), the city is locked in a battle with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats over the location of the stadium which will not only host the track and field competition of the 2015 Pan-American Games, but will likely serve as the new home of the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats beyond. The city, as well as most people if the on-line polls are anything to go by, want the stadium located on a brownfield in the west harbour, directly adjacent to the downtown core. This will not only provide a picturesque setting for the new stadium, but many feel it will be a catalyst for the renewal of the downtown core.

At the 11th hour, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats balked at the site, saying that they would not participate in the location of a stadium in the west harbour. This has led to a delay in the stadium construction as the city and the team are currently involved in protracted mediation process. One bewildering result of the this process is the recommendation that the stadium be located on some provincially-owned lands at the junction of the Red Hill Expressway and the Lincoln Alexander Parkway on the east mountain, light years away from the downtown. The debate is ongoing, but is expected to be resolved by mid August.

Today, matters got more complicated when one Joanne Mortimore, who passes herself off as the Chief Executive Officer of Athletics Canada, the national governing body of the sport of track and field, made a "discreet request" with the Pan-Am organizing committee that they scuttle the stadium in its entirety by moving the track and field competition to the centre of the universe, Toronto. Go here to see the Spectator's breaking of the story. It prompted this reply by me to Ms. Mortimore:


Dear Ms. Mortimore:

Although I do not have the authority to respond on behalf of the Hamilton Olympic Club, nor even on behalf of the track and field community in Hamilton, but I for one am VERY disappointed with the news today that Athletics Canada made a "discreet" request with the Pan-Am Games regarding moving the track and field competition from Hamilton, where it has been entrenched in the bid from the beginning, to Toronto.

What is particularly galling is that no one even bothered to consult the track and field community here in Hamilton. Perhaps you are aware (if not, you ought to be) that the Hamilton Olympic Club is the oldest continuously operating track and field club in all of North America and a member of Athletics Ontario and, by extension, Athletics Canada. Instead of "thinking out loud", perhaps it would have been wise to have consulted the club. There are a variety of lobbying efforts for the betterment of track and field going on every day, not all of which are directly related to the current difference of opinion as between the city and the Hamilton Tiger-Cat football club. In addition to the goals of perhaps keeping the track within the stadium, we very much desire to have at the very least a warmup track stay behind (preferably in the west harbour location) to serve as a facility for inner-city youth, who currently have nowhere to train in that part of the city. In addition, there are ongoing talks with the cycling community about including an indoor facility with the velodrome. A simple phone call to our club President, Monika DiCesare, would have apprised you of all of this.

Many of the big players in the stadium/velodrome debate are not attuned with the needs of track and field. Your letter demonstrates that Athletics Canada may not be attuned to the needs of the sport outside of Toronto.

Again, I don't speak for the club (although I am on the Board of Directors) – you will be receiving an official response at some point – however, suffice to say that your actions have seriously undercut our efforts in ensuring there is a legacy of track and field facilities in Hamilton. The last time I checked, Toronto already has a nice new track.



Rich Gelder

Very quickly, I received this response from Ms. Moritmore, which was very impressive if for no other reason she is likely plunked down in the stands at the Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto for the National Senior Track and Field Championships. She must have a really cool Blackberry:

Dear Rich

I appreciate and understand your concern. All informal information we have points to the track being removed post games hence our position. The challenge for the athletes training and traveling from the ath (sic) residence to the venue also leaves us with serious concerns. I hope this gives you further insight for the reasons for our position.

This does not remove the possibility of continuing to work towards a track in Hamilton.



Joanne Mortimore


So how does one become the Chief Executive Officer for a sports organization like Athletics Canada? Apparently not by being concerned about the long-term legacy opportunities that major international championships bring – at least those outside of the centre of the goddamned universe, Toronto.

In any event, I also cobbled together this letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator:


Suffice to say that, in this instance, the national track and field federation (Athletics Canada) does not speak for the local track community.

That the track and field competition of the2015 Pan-Am Games will be staged in Hamilton has been part of the bid from day one. Whether the stadium is built in the preferred west harbor location or on the east mountain, the legacy of at least a warmup track outside the stadium, for community, club and school use, would be a boon to the sport in Hamilton. Currently, no such facility exists in the inner city. If Athletics Canada was attuned to the needs of the sport outside of Toronto, where they have just christened a brand new track and field stadium in the downtown area in the past two years, they would understand that the track and field competition in Hamilton presents an opportunity not only for the long-term fortunes of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats but for the sport of track and field at the grassroots level. And this doesn't even address the creative possibilities of having a track remaining inside the stadium.

Today, I am embarrassed to be affiliated with Athletics Canada. They have done a disservice not only to the local stadium debate, but to all of those working hard for the betterment of track and field in Hamilton.

Rich Gelder

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sunday morning run punctuated by the appearance of a wayward whippet

This was a cool run on a cool day. Barely 13 degrees in June and damp, but perfect weather for a long run.

Didn't know where to go, so just went up York Road to the RBG trails. When I got near the Nature Centre, I was startled by a fast approaching animal which darted past me and back into the woods. The fleeting glimpse I caught of it suggested that it was a runaway greyhound. Knowing first-hand the propensity these animals have to bugger off for long periods of time from their owners, I stopped my run and tried to call him/her back. I then called out to see if the owner was nigh, perhaps frantically serching for its awol animal. Within a minute I saw that the dog had emerged from the woods and was careening around the adjacent meadow, like all sighthounds enjoy. I then caught up with the owner who was unconcerned, knowing that her dog would come back.

Sure enough the dog came to a screeching halt where we were standing and I soon corrected myself; we were dealing with a beautiful male whippet. We exchanged pleasantries and I was then back off on my run to York Boulevard and then back home.

The experience reminded me how much I still miss Dinsdale, even though he were a proper a greyhound which is a couple of cuts above the whippet on the socio-economic doggy stratum.

Untitled by at Garmin Connect - Details

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Morning run - detour to McDonald's

Ran my usual morning route to school. HOWEVER, instead of turning north up Caroline to SJAM, I continued straight to Jackson Square to procure myself a sausage n' egg McMuffin and a big-ass Powerade. Indeed, I live an exciting existence.

Untitled by at Garmin Connect - Details

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Ranking R.E.M.s albums from 1 to 14...just for fun

Here, in my humblest of estimations, are all 14 of R.E.M.'s albums of original material ranked in order from best to not best (because you can't use "worst" when describing a band the magnitude of R.E.M.).

1.    Life's Rich Pageant

2.    Automatic for the People

3.    Accelerate

4.    Green

5.    Reckoning

6.    Out of Time

7.    Document

8.    Murmur

9.    Monster

10.    Fables of the Reconstruction

11.    Reveal

12.    New Adventures in Hi-Fi

13.    Up

14.    Around the Sun