Hamilton stadium (finally) substantially complete

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Hamilton can finally take over its $145-million stadium next week — and now the race is on to get it event-ready.

An independent certifier for Infrastructure Ontario alerted the city Friday evening that the long-delayed construction project has achieved “substantial completion.”

That means the city finally gets the keys — 10 months later than expected — and beleaguered contractor Ontario Sports Solutions gets $89 million of withheld payments.

“There will still be minor work needed on the stadium, but it will not impact Pan Am / Parapan Am Games readiness or the stadium’s ability to shine on the international stage,” said IO vice-president John McKendrick in an email.

“Sufficient performance security has been withheld from the total payment to Ontario Sports Solutions to ensure any outstanding work is completed within the project’s original budget.”

An email to councillors Friday said staff will review the terms of the notice from the provincial oversight agency and update council on the next steps.

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson expressed relief at finally crossing the “finish line” of substantial completion.

“This mean the keys get turned over to our staff and they can start to mobilize and move forward and get ready for the Games.”

Deputy Mayor and Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green, whose ward contains the stadium, said he was “very happy.”

“We are surely looking forward to getting the community in there, to get a sense of how good it can be for Ward 3 and the whole city,” he said.

Hamilton East-Stoney Creek New Democrat MPP Paul Miller, who has been a tough critic on the delays, called it “good” that the work is done, but he now wondered what impact that will have on the budget.

“Yes, I’m happy it’s done, I just hope everything is on budget,” Miller said. “I really don’t think it will be, but we will see when the final bill comes in.”

Public works head Gerry Davis earlier warned council it could take weeks to train staff, test-drive stadium equipment and ready the building for public use.

But Ferguson believes the city can have the stadium ready for a public open house May 21. An international soccer match is also planned between the women’s teams from Canada and England on May 29.

Ferguson also said he’s confident staff will make sure the value placed on remaining deficiencies and incomplete work will be enough to finish the job or compensate the city.

Coun. Sam Merulla expressed frustration the late stadium is seen by some as the city’s fault.

“This is a provincial project and was from the time the bidding went forward to the time that the shovels went into the ground.”

Merulla said that despite that “gross incompetence,” the city must mitigate the impact on Hamilton.

“I think if we were to play hard ball and not buy into this, the community groups would hurt, the Tiger-Cats would hurt, which by extension would hurt the city.”

Merulla hasn’t seen the list of outstanding work, but suggested what remains to be done will be relatively minor.

“It’s nothing to do with public safety, so we’ve checked that off the list.”