By Pam Douglas
Former Brampton mayor Peter Robertson failed to get full support from council Wednesday in an 11th hour bid to convince them to buy into a $40 million proposal to build a cricket/kabaddi stadium next to the Powerade Centre, a softball field in Rosalea Park, and bring two Pan Am Games events to Brampton.
A unanimous vote was needed to waive council rules and add Robertson to the agenda. City Councillor John Sanderson said he forgot to ask for the addition when the agenda was approved at the start of the meeting, so council had to go through a series of votes to consider adding Robertson.
Mayor Susan Fennell said she would not support adding Robertson at the last minute, stating it wasn’t right to “slip” something onto the agenda without fair notice given to the rest of the residents of Brampton who may want to have a say.
She told him he was welcome to come to committee next Wednesday so proper notice could be given to the public, but Robertson, who did not explain why he waited until the last minute to approach council, said next week would be too late to apply to the Pan Am Games Committee.
Robertson and developer John Cutruzzola have been shopping around the idea for weeks, speaking to the Rotary club, the board of trade and media, reportedly with support from unsuccessful mayoral candidate Bruce Haines.
But only applications from municipalities will be accepted by the Pan Am Games.
The plan was to combine facilities on two separate sites using city-owned land with the hope of raising private sector funding. The city would have to contribute land, and $3 million, according to Cutruzzola and Robertson. The private sector would be asked for most of the rest.
But Robertson offered no explanation why he waited until the last minute to approach council, or why he did not follow council protocol and appear before last Wednesday’s Committee of Council where he would not have needed the rules waived to speak.
Fennell, and Regional Councillors John Sprovieri and Sandra Hames voted against re-opening the issue. City councillors had already turned down the idea of hosting baseball and softball Pan Am Games events, so the decision would have had to be reconsidered. The rest of council voted in favour, but the decision had to be unanimous.
Regional Councillor Paul Palleschi said he was “disgusted” that councillors wouldn’t let Robertson speak.
“I’ve known Peter for 30 years. The guy’s a former mayor of the city. I can’t believe that this council is sitting there, denying the guy the right to come and speak,” Palleschi said.
But Fennell said afterward that even if council had heard out the plan, with a deadline to submit an application in less than a week, council could not have hoped to make any decisions without information on how much it would cost, who would pay for it, how parking for a 5,000 seat facility could be accommodated in the downtown, or other key issues.
“If this was real, I’d be at the front of the line fighting to get this done,” she said.
More than a decade ago, when he was mayor, Robertson tried unsuccessfully to get a baseball stadium built near the Powerade Centre. Building a soccer facility on Rosalea Park had been a proposal by Cutruzzola as part of his unsuccessful city hall expansion proposal.
Together, their plan would split the Pan Am baseball and softball venues in two, fusing both ideas into one.
After the meeting, Fennell called the proposal “a fanciful idea that is not real”.
She said the Pan Am Games Committee already made it clear they want baseball and softball on one site, and had turned down Richmond Hill’s bid because it split the sites. Also, she said the Powerade Centre and downtown sites had already been turned down by the Pan Am Games Committee in Brampton’s initial bid. Instead, organizers picked a 100-acre park in north Brampton as the desired site, which council decided was too costly to build.
Fennell said despite a rumour that $20 million in federal cash would help pay for it, the office of the federal minister of sport said there isn’t.
“If there’s $20 million on the table, I’m first in line,” Fennell said. “But it’s not.”
Fennell said she had signed agreements with Pan Am organizers to host four other events in Brampton, and Pan Am later backed out when the game sites were consolidated.
Brampton and 17 other municipalities were offered the baseball and softball competitions as a consolation, and all have turned it down because it was too costly, Fennell said.
By Pam Douglas