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Hamilton Economic Development

Pan Am Games meant ‘a special summer’ for Hamilton

The Pan Am Games were a smooth ride for Hamilton, and one that left us with a stadium and a lot of good memories, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says.

But others wish there had been better logistics for moving fans and more economic spinoff for local businesses.

Eisenberger said before the final soccer game at CIBC Stadium on Sunday that the games have been a good thing for Hamilton.

They resulted in the city getting a new stadium for one-third of the cost. And despite a few minor glitches, “they’ve gone smoothly,” he said.

“Those that involved themselves got to enjoy two weeks of fun, two weeks of sports entertainment and a wealth of talent and enthusiasm in our community,” he said.

“We’re a closer knit community now, and we’re on a very positive curve.”

Toronto 2015 organizers sold about 200,000 tickets for the 18 soccer events at what is normally called Tim Hortons Field. That’s about two thirds of the available tickets.

While some games, such as when the Canadian men’s team played Brazil on opening weekend, drew a crowd near the 19,000-seat capacity. Other games drew fewer than 4,000 people.

Business owners surveyed around the stadium said they experienced little economic benefits. Some shops on Ottawa Street, where the BIA hosted food trucks, said they actually saw less business, presumably because regular customers thought the street would be to jammed to pass.

Entrepreneurs and residents had various theories on why local business didn’t see much of a spinoff. Pan Am attendees who arrived via the West Harbour GO station, for example, took shuttle buses directly to the stadium, where they disembarked and stayed. Drivers were directed to Mohawk College and McMaster University, where buses took them to the front door of the stadium. And those with tickets to double headers weren’t allowed to leave between games.

“All I see is buses going in and buses going out,” said Nirmit Patel, who owns Welcome Mart near the stadium.

Vrancor Hospitality Corp., owners of the Sheraton, Homewood Suites and Staybridge Suites, reported a 9.5-per cent increase in room rentals, primarily from games officials and media.

The city had ongoing events, such as Celebration Square in Gore Park, and an international viewing house at Ferguson Station in the International Village. They appeared fairly well attended on weekends, but drew scant crowds during the week.

Coun. Jason Farr, who represents Ward 2 downtown, concurs that attendance was “up and down” at the local events. But he thinks reaction was generally positive.

“From my own personal observation, certainly Gore Park was more alive because of the Pan Am Promenade,” he said. He also encountered people on James Street North who were from out of town and looking for places to go.

‘Surpassed hopes’

Like Eisenberger, Farr said the big success is the new stadium and the new attention it brought the Pan Am precinct.

“It lived up to and even surpassed hopes,” he said. “I really do think it was a very special summer for us.”

Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek and the NDP critic for the Pan Am Games, said he was pleased with the athleticism he saw at the games. As for logistics, he saw room for improvement.

Security at the stadium was fairly slow, he said, so people with tickets were still in lines at the entrance when the game had already started. He also wished the West Harbour GO station, while functional, was more of a finished product.

Did the GO station ever get completed? I’m not sure,” he said.

On Monday, Metrolinx closed the east platform of the station again for construction.

Brought business opportunities

Miller also has questions about the economic spinoff of the games, including people’s inability to leave the stadium after they’d entered. And the HOV lanes on GTHA highways, which were reserved for vehicles with three or more occupants, were “underused and too restrictive.”

“I’m happy with the results,” he said of the games “I’m not quite overly thrilled with the traffic and economic spinoff. Overall, I’d say it was a 6.5 out of 10.”

Eisenberger said he was also pleased with the Pan Am Investment Playbook Bilateral Trade Forum downtown. Hamilton will host a trade delegation from Colombia this fall as a result of the games, he said.

“The longer legacy is the relationships built with businesses and business opportunities,” he said.

The final Pan Am Games event in Hamilton was the cultural showcase at the waterfront on Sunday night, which featured fireworks by Circus Orange with the National Academy Orchestra.

Article courtesy of Samantha Craggs, CBC News

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