Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) owner Michael Andlauer is not sold on the prospect of a new arena in the city’s downtown, expressing concern that it would take too much time to complete.
The Bulldogs are the anchor tenant of FirstOntario Centre, an arena whose aging condition has prompted some calls for a replacement. Andlauer has floated a potential replacement, partnering with mall owner Cadillac Fairview to pitch a new arena at the CF Lime Ridge mall that would be funded through a public-private initiative.
City officials, though, appear to desire taking a closer look at the prospects of a new downtown arena. On Wednesday, the city council is expected to approve forming a steering committee that would be responsible for selecting a downtown location, while also seeking out a private partner that would help fund the C$130 million, 10,000-seat facility.
Ahead of that vote, Andlauer is expressing some skepticism, specifically with concerns about timing. He says that the proposed arena at CF Lime Ridge could be completed by March 2022 but that, in contrast, discussions of a downtown arena could drag on and delay the timeline for a new facility for years. Andlauer indicates that we would listen to a new downtown arena pitch if the committee puts together a firm proposal efficiently, but otherwise worries that prolonged discussions could affect the Bulldogs’ future in Hamilton. More from The Hamilton Spectator:
Andlauer says if the city can’t get a new arena up and running before that, he’ll be forced to look at moving his OHL hockey team elsewhere.
“I don’t want to be put in that position, but I think timing is going to create that.”…
But Andlauer is skeptical the committee will move with anything like the kind of speed he needs. He predicts it’ll get snagged by location, budget and possibly expropriation debates.
He says if the city is really serious, the task force should be able to put together a hard proposal in 60 days. If that happened, he’d be all ears.
“If it’s a definite timeline and there’s a plan, a road map we can execute, then I’m open to it. But to me there’s a lot of unanswered questions.”
A pair of councilmembers are expected to propose a motion on Wednesday to study Andlauer’s arena proposal, but whether that moves forward remains to be seen. First opening as Copps Coliseum in 1985, the 17,383-seat FirstOntario Centre was built with NHL ambitions in mind. Andlauer has expressed his desire for a modern and smaller arena, one that would be more fitting to OHL operations rather than designed to attract the NHL.
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