Hamilton stadium lawsuit officially settled clearing way for Grey Cup bid

The city says more stadium repairs are coming following the settlement of a lawsuit over its problem-plagued $145-million stadium – but taxpayers aren’t on the hook for any extra costs.

The Spectator reported two weeks ago the city, province and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had effectively reached an agreement to end competing lawsuits worth tens of millions of dollars over Tim Hortons Field.

The formal settlement announcement Thursday noted virtually all details will stay secret under the deal between the city, Ticats, Infrastructure Ontario, Pan Am Games organizing committee and stadium contractor Ontario Sports Solutions.

But Mayor Fred Eisenberger emphasized taxpayers won’t be dinged for any extra costs due to the long-running litigation, which started with dueling court claims in spring 2016. “As a result of the resolution, the city is on budget and has sufficient monies remaining to complete final works at the stadium,” he said.

Repairs that are still needed three years after the stadium opened include sealing ongoing expansion joint leaks, fixing floor drains, adding speakers to address complaints about sound dead zones and installing taller guardrails along the top of some stands and stairs, said facilities head Rom D’Angelo.

The tenders for those repairs should go out in the next few weeks, he said. “At that point, we have a finished stadium,” he said.

Since the stadium was handed over late and unfinished ahead of the 2015 Pan Am Games, the city has already stepped in to fix leaks, missing draft beer lines, unsafe railings and rain-damaged television screens. It also commissioned a safety audit after a tower speaker plunged into the empty stands in 2016. The cost of all those jobs were covered by withheld stadium payments to the contractor.

The settlement also provides unspecified compensation to the Tiger-Cats for losses due to construction delays and other stadium deficiencies.

In a brief statement, the Ticats said the team is satisfied with the settlement and happy to “turn the page” on the litigation to work with the city on common goals like bringing a CFL Grey Cup football game and professional soccer to Hamilton.

Eisenberger also said the settlement “clears the way” for the Ticats and city to work toward securing a Grey Cup and “possibly” bring professional soccer to Hamilton.

He added there is still a “difference of opinion” between the city and team over whether the Tiger-Cats have a valid lease to run a soccer franchise at Tim Hortons Field. (A new Canadian Premier League is supposed to start play next year, with Hamilton already listed online as a founding member playing out of Tim Hortons Field.)

Eisenberger said he looks forward to resuming discussions with the team that have “been on hold” due to the city’s policy of not working with parties that are suing the city.

City councillors also citied that policy in refusing to consider a team-sponsored winter dome over the Tim Hortons Field playing surface last year.

The release does not specify what compensation was provided to either the city or Ticats.

The city originally filed a $35-million legal claim against Infrastructure Ontario and the stadium contractor, including $14 million on behalf of the Ticats for losses due to construction delays and other problems.

But at the same time, the city also claimed $4.5 million against the team for delays allegedly caused by the team. The Ticats filed a counterclaim against the city that listed more than 30 stadium defects and issues, but did not specify a particular dollar value.

Infrastructure Ontario spokesperson Lee Greenberg said in a statement the settlement “confirms the project was completed on budget.”

He said the provincial agency is “proud to have delivered this project in a way that protected taxpayers despite the many challenges faced during construction.”

Council discussed the lawsuit behind closed doors weeks ago and emerged to vote on secret directions to staff. Councillors Terry Whitehead and Donna Skelly voted against the closed-door decision, but did not specify why.

Whitehead said he can’t talk about the details of the settlement, but specified Thursday his vote was against a “lack of transparency,” not the settlement itself.

“My thinking was when you deal with taxpayers money, the community has a right to know those dollar figures,” he said.

The cost of tendered repair work will eventually become public.