The city has finally decided to finish its own football stadium — and yes, that means draft beer at the next Ticats game.
Two years after the $145-million facility was supposed to be complete, Hamilton has hired its own contractor to deal with up to $2 million in outstanding deficiencies and disputed work at Tim Hortons Field.
The original builder, Ontario Sports Solutions, has had employees on site dealing with minor problems or unfinished work ever since the Pan Am Games ended last August.
But some repairs have been left in limbo by arguments over responsibility and damages — a dispute that morphed this spring into competing lawsuit threats involving the city, the builder, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and provincial project overseer Infrastructure Ontario.
Negotiations continue that are aimed at settling the question of who pays for what out of court.
In the meantime, the city has decided to use “hold-back” stadium payments to deal with “issues that might impact the fan experience,” said facilities director Rom D’Angelo. Bestco Construction has already completed much of the tendered work, he added.
For football fans, what that means in practical terms is draft beer will finally flow from concessions stands at the Aug. 20 Ticats game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The missing beer lines were among the most infamous disputed contract items between the builder and city.
Other noticeable improvements will include replaced baby-changing tables, safer railings in the patio area near the north end zone and functional electrical plug-in “pedestals” for wheelchairs that no longer block the view of users.
Behind the scenes, lingering mechanical, electrical and plumbing problems are also being fixed. Those repairs will be covered by the withheld stadium payments, D’Angelo said.
But the city also chipped in some of its own cash to install eight water-filling stations which D’Angelo admitted were forgotten in the original stadium design.
The Spectator couldn’t reach a Ticat representative on the weekend to comment on the improvements.
Longtime fan Greg Chiasson said via Twitter he had “almost given up” on the litany of minor problems ever being sorted out. “I’ll be happy when all is done,” he said, cheerily adding while draft beer sounds good, it’s “cheaper to drink water.”
There is still work to do, however.
The city is still conducting a forensic review of a hanging speaker bracket that failed in June, allowing a speaker the size of a bar fridge to plunge into the empty stadium seats.
New brackets and heftier safety cables have been installed all around the stadium, D’Angelo said, but inspections are also underway to ensure the safety of any other stadium element that could fall.
Other “non-critical” disputed work items — like concourse television monitors damaged by rain and more general audio system “glitches”— will be dealt with later, he said.
Other alleged problems, like seats with impeded views and offices that are too small, will likely have to be solved via negotiations and financial settlement, he said.