By PAM DOUGLAS
Special to Focus
Brampton city councillors voted unanimously in favour of considering another bid to host baseball/softball in the 2015 Pan Am Games, but there are many question they need answers to first, including ‘where’s the money’?
They also voted unanimously yesterday to get more information on possible financing and Pan Am site requirements in order to consider submitting a bid using one of the two proposals brought to them by two local residents.
It’s unclear if the proposals, made by developer John Cutruzzola (a downtown venue on Rosalea Park) and former mayor Peter Robertson (a Powerade Centre venue) would be acceptable to Games organizers, and councillors said they want to know for certain where the millions of dollars will come.
The staff report will come back to councillors quickly, because time is running out to submit a bid. The venue will be finalized by the end of July, so council has to make a decision very soon.
Many councillors said they will not support anything that costs taxpayers money, but there are indications there might be money available from private investors, the Games, the province or the federal government.
“The taxpayers are not going to pay for this,” Regional Councillor Paul Palleschi said. “We are not committing $1.”
Conflicting information on which local sites are acceptable has come from Pan Am Games organizers and confused the issue even more, Mayor Susan Fennell said.
“What I find very disconcerting as mayor, as I’m sure council does, too, the Pan Am organizers have met with residents of this city and I think gave them different information than this council has,” Fennell said, noting the city already proposed the Powerade Centre and other sites. The Pan Am organizers paid for a feasibility study, then rejected those sites, picking Sesquicentennial Park instead.
“I say, let’s get the facts and let’s play ball,” Fennell said following presentations by Robertson and Cutruzzola yesterday.
Council directed staff to “get the facts” and find out exactly how much money is available from the province, the federal government and Games organizers, and what sites are acceptable.
“You can’t be saying one thing to council and one thing to residents in the sports community,” Fennell said.
“Either this council was misled or our beautiful residents were misled, or maybe there’s just more new information,” she said.
Robertson and Cutruzzola laid out their plans for multi-purpose stadiums. Robertson and partner Bruce Haines have been meeting with potential investors, some interested in investing in a work/live/athlete’s village which would also include a hotel on the Powerade Centre lands on Kennedy Road South.
But Cutruzzola’s proposal on Rosalea Park received the most positive feedback from councillors, with or without a Pan Am bid.
Fennell said it is “exciting” and City Councillor Bob Callahan said it was “beautiful”, although he, too, said the city has enough projects on its plate and no taxpayer money should be involved.
Robertson had already presented his plan at committee last week. For the first time yesterday, Cutruzzola presented his vision of a combination baseball/cricket stadium for downtown Brampton that he believes could also solve the flooding concern that has stalled downtown development for some time now.
Councillors heard from Planning Commissioner John Corbett that the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will still require flood mitigation measures when residential or service commercial buildings are constructed if a berm is constructed to address a 350-year flood. To fix the concern of a “regional” flood, it would cost at least $800 million to widen and deepen the diversion channel, councillors were told.
Still, Regional Councillor Gael Miles agreed the idea of a stadium in the downtown “sounds very exciting and it opens up possibilities”.
Cutruzzola’s proposal offers:
• a stadium that would seat between 5,000 and 10,000 in a structure built one storey above grade, with 400 covered parking spaces underneath;
• a new, partially enclosed Brampton Tennis Club facility to the east and south of the existing YMCA;
• a berm along the south side of Church Street and the west side of the Etobicoke Creek diversion, which Cutruzzola hopes would meet the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s requirement that the downtown floodplain be protected from a possible “350-year flood”;
• the berm would be terraced, landscaped and planted with one tree indigenous to each province and territory, creating a “tree museum” that would beautify the area and be a tourist attraction;
• the diversion beside Rosalea Park would be covered to create a riverwalk, which would also provide the missing link in the city’s existing trail system;
• sculptures, lighting and landscaping would create an impressive the entry from Union Street.
And Cricket Canada has agreed to contribute “a good chunk” of the estimated $35 to $40 million needed to build the facility on Rosalea Park in downtown Brampton, Cutruzzola said.
As for the rest, he said the provincial government has an obligation to help fix the flooding concerns that are interfering with downtown development, and if the Pan Am Games are part of the deal, a substantial amount of money would come from that agreement.
Cricket Canada CEO Doug Hannum told council his organization is looking for a home, and wants to make Brampton that home. The organization also has money to offer to make that happen, he said.
Councillors unanimously decided yesterday to re-consider the Pan Am Games bid so they could discuss the proposals.
Cutruzzola says his “vision” isn’t “an easy thing to do.”
“It requires co-operation on council and with a number of people.”
He said he isn’t offering to fund the project, but will build it if the city wants him to, or will act as a free consultant if the city finds someone else who can build it and offer a better deal to do so.
He said he isn’t looking for a project for his company Inzola to build, he just wants to see it done because it is all about “business development and city-building” and he believes in the merits of the proposal.
It would create jobs, and bring with it restaurants, hotels and other businesses to the downtown, he said.
Cutruzzola said complaints about noise or traffic congestion cannot be allowed to derail the idea.
“We need to leave little things behind us and concentrate on the big things if we want to create a better city to live, work and play,” he said.
Comparing the malaise that dogs downtown Brampton to physical depression, local architect and friend Bob Posliff praised Cutruzzola’s plan and urged residents to get behind it.
“We now have the opportunity to throw our support behind a proposal that will turn downtown Brampton’s breakdown into a breakthrough,” Posliff wrote in an email distributed to garner support for the project.
He said downtown Brampton has “exceptional potential” that is being squandered, but the stadium, tennis club, riverwalk and the tree museum would offer year-round daily destinations for visitors, which are needed to revitalize the area.
By PAM DOUGLAS