City of Hamilton on the hook for another $500k in stadium repairs

The city will spend up to $500,000 fixing persistent stadium leaks and sound system issues as legal wrangling continues over who is to blame for a laundry list of post-construction problems.

The latest repairs — this time to leaking expansion joints and malfunctioning floor drains that damaged fifth-level stadium suites — could push total city spending on repairs and safety issues since last year to almost $2.5 million.

The city still has to “tweak” a glitch-prone stadium sound system, said facilities head Rom D’Angelo, but that project budget is not yet public.

Since the $145-million stadium was handed over late and unfinished ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games, the city has stepped in to fix everything from leaks to missing draft beer lines to unsafe railings to rain-damaged television screens.

It also installed forgotten water stations (a city oversight), paid to power the stadium with emergency generators after a transformer blew and commissioned a safety audit after a tower speaker plunged into the empty stands last summer.

The city maintains it will be reimbursed by the stadium builder and Infrastructure Ontario — either via negotiation or through a lawsuit — for any money spent fixing “deficiencies and latent defects.” (The forgotten water fountains will stay on the city’s tab.)

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who chaired the city’s Pan Am stadium committee, said he’s “comfortable” with the ongoing spending because the city withheld millions of dollars in payments to builder Ontario Sport Solutions as a result of the initial problems.

“We’ve held a lot of money back to ensure that stadium is completed and in an appropriate state of repair,” he said. “That’s worth doing and I’m comfortable we won’t be left on the hook for the cost.”

The city confirmed it had $6 million in withheld payments available in late 2015, but it’s not clear how much of that cash remains. City lawyer Bryan Boodhoo said Tuesday he can’t reveal any information about the holdback cash because of ongoing litigation.

The infamous delays and deficiencies at the stadium spurred tens of millions of dollars in dueling court claims filed in the spring of 2016, between the city, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, stadium builder and provincial project overseer Infrastructure Ontario.

The parties continued trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement and city councillors were presented a range of options behind closed doors late last year. But Ferguson said Tuesday he understand the negotiations “aren’t going anywhere” and suggested it’s possible the dispute will have to be settled in court.

That view is at odds with the recent portrayal of negotiations by Kenaidan Contracting, a partner in the building consortium, which recently suggested a settlement was ready to be signed.

In a brief statement, Infrastructure Ontario said Tuesday all parties are “working hard” to reach a settlement. Tiger-Cats representatives didn’t respond to queries about the latest repairs or the state of negotiations Tuesday.

But the stadium lease agreement requires the city to pursue Ticat claims of financial losses related to the delayed construction with the builder and Infrastructure Ontario. No proposed settlement can go ahead without agreement from the team.

Team CEO Scott Mitchell told The Spectator in March there “hasn’t been any progression” in efforts to settle the lawsuit.

The legal stalemate is affecting the city in other ways, even if local taxpayers remain off the hook for the ongoing parade of repairs.

The litigation is effectively preventing the city and Ticats from teaming up on a Grey Cup bid until at least 2019. Similarly, council cited the lawsuit as a reason to pass on the chance to partner with team owner Bob Young and a local consortium interested in installing an all-season dome over the stadium.

On the upside, Hamilton is in good company when it comes to stadium-related trials and tribulations.

Winnipeg’s new $210-million stadium also opened months later than expected in 2013 and required extensive post-construction repairs, prompting a slew of dueling lawsuits.

In Ottawa, a $140-million-plus renovation of TD Place stadium was paired with massive residential and commercial redevelopment. The revamped stadium was completed in 2014 but resulted in a web of legal squabbles between the new ownership group, prime contractor and subcontractors over billing and cost disputes.

Stadium repairs:

Here’s a highlight list of post-construction fixes the city has stepped in to do so far:

• installing draft beer lines;

• replacing 12 rain-damaged television screens (indoor monitors were initially installed outdoors);

• swapping out faulty baby-changing tables,

• replacing railings in various areas;

• improving ventilation in the popcorn-making room;

• installing eight water-bottle-filling stations (the missing fountains were an oversight of the city, not the builder);

• paying for emergency generators to power the stadium during a Ticats home game when a transformer failed;

• paying a forensic engineer to investigate after a massive tower speaker plunged into the empty football stands last summer. A subsequent safety audit of other hanging features was also completed.

• New plans to fix leaky expansion joints as well as faulty floor drains. Fans had long reported problems with drains, while the original stadium builder tried to redo failing waterproof seals in the stands as early as 2015;

• Upcoming plans to improve audio and video system at stadium.