The elected leadership in Hamilton will ask the province and Ottawa for funding for the 2030 Commonwealth Games, when or if the time comes.
On Monday afternoon, city council’s general issues committee (GIC), including representatives who are not seeking re-election this fall, voted 12-2 in favour of upgrading Hamilton’s memorandum of understanding with the Hamilton100 Commonwealth Games Bid Corporation. The first MOU with Hamilton100, which is headed by Carmen’s Group CEO P.J. Mercanti, was signed in 2019.
Mercanti is also a leader with the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG), which is redeveloping FirstOntario Centre arena, FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre.
The new MOU is described by Tourism Hamilton as “supportive and non-binding involvement in the bid process.” The city and Hamilton100 are, per an appendix to Monday’s staff report, “not entering into a partnership, joint venture, agency relationship or any other business arrangement, nor is the intent of the Parties to enter into a commercial undertaking for monetary gain.”
For the time being, the city will “advocate for provincial and federal financial support” for the 2030 CWG bid. It will also provide a letter of endorsement, which is presumably timely since Mercanti and fellow Hamilton100 executive Lou Frapporti will be attending the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England to talk up the Hamilton bid.
Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark noted Hamilton has “multiple exit ramps” to withdraw support. Many cities around the world have shied away from hosting multi-sport games such as the Olympics, citing cost overruns.
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) are held halfway between the Summer Olympics. The last edition in 2018 involved about 4,400 athletes across 18 sports. That is about 40 per cent as many competitors as a Summer Olympics, with half as many sports.
The 2030 date ties in with the 100th anniversary of Hamilton holding the inaugural edition of the multi-sport event in 1930. Canada has not hosted in 1994 in Victoria. Next month, England will be hosting the CWG for the second time since Canada last hosted, and Australia will likely be hosting it for the third time since then. Victoria, Australia is likely to host in 2026.
Wards 8 and 3 Couns. John-Paul Danko and Nrinder Nann cast the only votes against updating the MOU with Hamilton100. Danko stated that the presentations and delegations that councillors heard on Monday were light on details. He also noted that the bid committee plans on asking other cities around the region to host events and that athlete housing that would be converted into permanent housing would be in Burlington, rather than in Hamilton.
“This is more of an emotional marketing pitch than factual planning,” Danko said. “What we haven’t received are financial details, or details about legacy venues or housing, except for perhaps in Burlington… we have no idea of when the public will be provided a chance to give input.
“In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, a major driver of this is to leverage public tax dollars to private interest,” Danko added. “At a bare minimum, I have to be able to go to my constituents in Ward 8 and say ‘this is what we’re going to do, this is how we’re going to do it, and this is what will it cost.’ I cannot do that, so I cannot support it.”
Hamilton100 says it will have the city’s name on the Commonwealth Games’ “masthead” but will also be approaching other cities about hosting some events. No other city is on-board, but Frapporti said the part of the process comes later in the game, in consultation with Commonwealth Sport Canada.
Toronto took a similar approach when it hosted the 2015 Pan-Am Games. Hamilton was one of the cities hosted events.
Frapporti went on-record before the GIC last October saying that Hamilton100 would not seek tax dollars in the host city to build venues.
“The initial funding request for sports infrastructure, we’re almost entirely going to privatize in a variety of ways,” he said last Oct. 6.
Commonwealth Sport Canada CEO Brian MacPherson appeared before Monday’s meeting to say Hamilton would be the only Canadian bid for the 2030 games.
The Hamilton100 committee previously eyed a bid at hosting in 2026. They pivoted to focus on 2030 after the province said it could not help 2027 at the earliest.
Ten days ago, however, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek MPP Neil Lumdsden was named the sports minister in the Premier Doug Ford-led Ontario PC Party government. Lumsden is a former sports administrator, who led the 2003 World Road Track Cycling Championships in Hamilton.
The 12 votes in favour came from Mayor Fred Eisenberger and councillors Clark (Ward 9), Jason Farr (2), Lloyd Ferguson (12), Tom Jackson (6), Brenda Johnson (11), Sam Merulla (4), Judi Partridge (15), Esther Pauls (7), Maria Pearson (11) Russ Powers (5) and Arlene VanderBeek (13).
Eisenberger, Merulla, Johnson, Partridge and Pearson are not running for re-election this fall. Powers is also not running after being appointed to a vacant seat.
Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson was absent, and Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead is on a medical leave.