If you buy a new house in Ontario, you’re covered by a warranty against major structural defects for seven years. If you purchase a new car, you’re typically covered against significant deficiencies for a few years.
But if the province builds you a new $145-million stadium, it turns out you’re only covered for structural deficiencies for one year from the date of substantial completion. Which was achieved last May.
Meaning the structural warranty on Tim Hortons Field has already expired.
“Their obligation is done,” city facilities director Rom D’Angelo says of general contractor Ontario Sports Solutions.
“Warranties are in place for one year after substantial completion,” echoed last week’s provincial auditor general’s report on the Pan Am Games, speaking of issues at the stadium.
Infrastructure Ontario and D’Angelo both say this length of warranty is an industry standard. So the city did not get shortchanged in coverage.
Still, there will surely be some eyebrows raised about this in the wake of a 68-kilogram speaker breaking free and falling onto empty seats below the other day. Not to mention Wednesday’s report that said most of the brackets holding the speakers on the east side of the stadium were cracked or showing stress, and a number were not tethered properly. Combined with that auditor general’s report that cited the city’s concerns with “quality and workmanship.”
Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said this speaker issue was troubling because someone must have examined and then OK’d the speaker holders.
“What worries me is the public safety was put at risk and was this thing designed on the cheap?” Ferguson asks. “That’s the questions I’m asking staff. What else is built on the cheap?”
So what does this mean if something else happens? Is the city on the hook for any costs? Depends on who you ask.
Mechanical equipment operating within the facility remains covered for as long as five years and the cost of fixing deficiencies identified before the first year expired will be covered even if the work hasn’t yet been done. That’s clear.
Infrastructure Ontario says if there was a structural issue, it would take the lead in either getting the builder to fix the issues or recovering the cost from the contractor.
“It’s important to consider there are also issues that would be classified as latent defects — stuff that was wrong in the original construction and design that you can’t see and don’t manifest themselves right away,” wrote IO vice-president of communications Alan Findlay in an email. “Our contracts always protect us and the facility owner from latent defects. There is no time limitation on defects. If we find them and they are tied to the original design/construction we would go after the builder.”
D’Angelo, meanwhile, says any structural repairs resulting from problems appearing from this point forward would likely have to be done and paid for by the city, which could then sue in an attempt to recover the costs.
“Course of action would be pursuing a legal avenue to seek compensation for damages or negligence against the designer; engineers; contractor, etc.,” D’Angelo told The Spectator.
The Spectator couldn’t reach a representative of the contractor for comment.
In the case of the falling speaker, the city removed the remaining speakers and hired a forensic engineer to examine the brackets. It also brought in its own structural engineer to examine other areas of the facility. Infrastructure Ontario (IO) and Ontario Sports Solutions (ONSS) were also on site.
In a statement to The Spectator’s Matthew Van Dongen, IO said the cost of the work — and replacing the speakers — will fall to ONSS. Which, D’Angelo says, is more than appropriate considering the building is basically still new.
“If this happened to your car, I think you’d be knocking at the dealer’s door.”
But a year from now, he says it would be the city making the repairs and then chasing payment through the courts. There are already competing lawsuits for damages that have been filed by the city, IO, ONSS and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
That said, D’Angelo told 900CHML on Thursday that he’s confident the speaker falling was an isolated incident and the stadium is now safe. Infrastructure Ontario says it’s doing what it can to ensure that.
“We are standing side by side with the City of Hamilton to ensure that the stadium is safe for all Hamiltonians,” Findlay wrote.