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.
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:
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.
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.