Tim Hortons Field delays finally end up in court

Infamous construction delays at Tim Hortons Field have spurred tens of millions of dollars in threatened court claims that include dueling legal notices by the city and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The city has filed a notice of action that claims $35 million in damages against stadium contractor Ontario Sports Solutions, Infrastructure Ontario and the organizing committee of the Pan Am Games.

The threatened court action comes close to two years after the promised completion date for the $145-million stadium, which was handed over to the city unfinished last May and remains plagued by deficiencies.

The city’s claim includes $14 million on behalf of the Ticats football team, which has a lease agreement that requires the city to pursue compensation on behalf of its tenant for missed games due to construction delays.

But the city is separately claiming $4.5 million in “delay damages” against the team, as well as breach of contract damages totaling $227,004 plus taxes.

The Ticats also filed a notice of action against the city and the other parties, but The Spectator was unable to obtain it Thursday night.

Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell said he couldn’t comment on a legal matter, but the team issued a statement that said the notice was filed “in keeping with our goal of having the best possible stadium experience at Tim Hortons Field for our fans.”

City manager Chris Murray emphasized the dueling legal notices aren’t a reflection on the relationship between the municipal stadium landlord and its Ticat tenants. “We’re preserving our rights, but the parties are still working together,” he said.

He added despite the court filings, negotiations continue that could resolve outstanding issues without further legal action.

The team statement also called the filing a “routine court document” simply meant to preserve the legal rights of the football team, which has been playing in an unfinished stadium since Labour Day 2014 and was forced to relocate due to construction delays for three games.

The team’s lease agreement with the city calls for compensation of up to $1 million a game for missed home dates due to construction. But the team has had to contend with other construction issues such as missing draft beer lines, damaged outdoor television monitors and hundreds of seats with blocked views.

Murray said the contractor remains on site dealing with a dwindling list of minor “deficiencies” like concrete cracks, missing drink holders and non-functional drains.

The city was holding back around $6 million in payments last August in case it had to eventually finish work or cover damages under the contract. Murray didn’t know Thursday how much of the holdback remained.

It’s unclear when the city might step in to fix any remaining issues before the Ticats’ football season kicks off. “Everything that can be done to get it completed is being done right now,” Murray said.

The Spectator couldn’t reach a representative of Infrastructure Ontario or the contractor Thursday night. A letter from Ontario Sports Solutions in April 2014, however, argued some construction delays were out of its control and blamed “exceptionally long” waits for city building permits for some of the holdup.

Infrastructure Ontario vice-president John McKendrick, by contrast, has repeatedly assured council Hamilton taxpayers would not be on the hook for stadium delay costs.

Council discussed the legal actions behind closed doors and voted to appoint Murray sole spokesperson on the contentious matter. No one else reached by the Spectator Thursday night would comment.

The city is specifically claiming against the province and the contractor:

•$4.5 million in delay damages;

•$7.3 million in disputed cost-sharing items;

•$2.49 million in “non-compliance” items;

•$3.5 million in warranty items;

•$457,000 for IT work;

•$1.15 million for minor deficiencies.

Details explaining those numbers are not included in the notice of action, which is a legal precursor to a formal statement of claim in a lawsuit.