Brampton says ‘no’ to Pan Am bid

June 7, 2012 - All News

Special to Focus
Brampton City Councillors have decided unanimously to take a pass on making another bid for hosting baseball/softball in the 2015 Pan Am Games, but developer John Cutruzzola was told his vision to build a sports stadium in Rosalea Park isn’t dead yet.
“I particularly like the Rosalea Park plan,” Regional Councillor Paul Palleschi told Cutruzzola at Wednesday’s council meeting. “But you have to agree, it’s going to be difficult to go to the Pan Am Games without actual financial dollars.”
“I think we can assure you we’re going to pursue something (separate from Pan Am),” he told Cutruzzola.
In fact, to “capitalize” on the enthusiasm and energy from the community, both the proposal for a baseball stadium/cricket field in Rosalea and the Peter Robertson/Bruce Haines proposal for a major re-development of city lands adjacent to the Powerade Centre will be explored in the upcoming Strategic Plan process and budget discussions, and will be put to residents city-wide for feedback.
“We do get to continue the debate,” Mayor Susan Fennell said referring to council’s decision to turn down a Pan Am bid. “We are planning a city, we are not planning a city to a deadline in Toronto.”
After agreeing to reconsider a bid last month, councillors yesterday agreed with City Manager Deborah Dubenofsky’s report that concluded the funding for a Pan Am bid is uncertain, the timelines are too tight, and Games organizers are already well on their way to choosing another municipality.
Councillors were told there is only $7 million available from the federal government for a Pan Am baseball/softball venue development here in Brampton, and the two private sector plans presented to council carry price tags much higher, are based on more cash coming from upper levels of government, and, in particular the Haines/Robertson plan did not offer firm commitments of funding from the private sector.
On top of that, Pan Am officials are already in an “advanced stage of discussions” with another municipality to host baseball/softball, councillors were told.
Games organizers told the city next Friday (June 15) is the deadline for submitting a “concrete” bid, and the site must be “construction-ready” by March 2013, which would be a “herculean” feat, Dubenofsky told councillors.
Dubenofsky told council that Pan Am organizers say $13 million is the fixed capital cost, so only $7 million would come from the federal government and the city would have to fund the other $6 million.
But the two separate proposals brought to council by the private sector would cost between $30 and $60 million to build, Dubenofsky said.
Cutruzzola told council it doesn’t appear the city put any pressure on the federal government to get more money for the project.
“It’s easy to say today we have no choice,” he said in criticizing the city for not lobbying for more. “I would admit there is no other way than the conclusion, given the process we used. We could have used a different process.”
He asked councillors to continue to discuss the Rosalea Park proposal.
“Let’s make the Rosalea Park separate from the Games because we are not going to make it today,” he said. “I’m asking that you won’t abandon the idea today.”
He said $10 million from the city is all it would take from taxpayers, and it’s $10 million the city has already committed, to build 350 parking stalls, build a berm in the park, building a road extension through the park and other projects, so it would be no new money needed from the city, just money reallocated.
“Please, I just ask you to take this proposal seriously, seriously,” he said. “And you don’t take a risk on Rosalea Park until you are satisfied you are doing the right thing.”
He made it clear he did not support the second proposal, made by former mayor Peter Robertson, in the “suburbs” of Brampton.
“I love the vision of doing something in Rosalea Park,” said Regional Councillor Gael Miles. However, she pointed out that the city has a long list of “priorities” to build facilities, but no funding for them.
She said the sports/entertainment stadium is a wonderful idea, but she doesn’t know where it falls in the lineup, so it needs to be considered with all other projects.
“But in the long run, I think we can find the resources and the support from other levels of government to do this,” Miles said.
Bruce Haines told councillors that a “lead developer” has promised $15 million to the Powerade project, but a letter to council from that developer did not mention a dollar figure or financial commitment, Palleschi pointed out.
Councillors told him and Robertson that, without solid financial commitments, they can’t approve the plan.
“I was excited when I saw the project, but… without financial contributions…we can’t do this before the Pan Am Games,” Palleschi told Haines. “The concept is great, the vision is fantastic, but there is not a firm commitment for the dollars.”
He also said city-owned land is still tax money, and Haines/Robertson propose a condo development on city-owned land next to the Brampton Golf Club as part of their proposal on the Powerade site.
Regional Councillor Sandra Hames said she was astounded Haines/Robertson brought no “backup” supporting their proposal.
“This is like we’re going backwards,” she said.
“I’m sorry, you may have some good ideas in there, but you’ve left it far too late, and there’s not nearly enough information,” Hames told them.
“If it doesn’t come through, it’s residents on the hook, not you,” she said.
Robertson told councillors they need to turn to private/public partnerships to deliver facilities.
He urged councillors to meet with the private sector and bid on the Games.