Brampton councillors hit the brakes on cricket stadium plan in absence of answers
With far more questions than answers, Brampton Council needs more information before a decision on a future cricket stadium can be made.
After being told last year that $35 million would be needed to build a world class cricket stadium to host international events, staff now say it will cost $49 million.
But in their report to council, few answers to key questions were provided:
-How many permanent, fixed seats would a $49-million stadium have?
-If at least 20,000 are needed to host internationally sanctioned professional cricket matches, how can $49 million cover the cost when other similar facilities in North America are at least $250 million in 2022 figures?
-Why are claims of using a cricket stadium for other sports and events not supported by details about the feasibility of this?
-Would local groups and leagues even be allowed to use a professional cricket stadium that has to follow requirements of various international sports bodies?
-Before committing taxpayer dollars to a project, what binding agreements are in place to ensure professional cricket would be hosted?
-What will be done to ensure the stadium doesn’t become another white elephant, like the CAA centre, which Brampton taxpayers subsidize while it sits empty most of the time?
The proposed stadium would be built on the CAA lands.
City staff who authored the report say the stadium that would host international cricket events could be converted for other uses such as tournaments for other sports and special events. Other outdoor community uses include concerts, movie screenings, public art installations and seasonal events.
There are no details or examples provided to show the feasibility of using a professional cricket oval for other purposes. The dimensions of the playing area are massive, almost 200,000 square feet, more than twice the size of a standard soccer field. With the circular shape and grass surface, professional facilities around the world are generally used only for cricket.
The facility was originally proposed for Gore Meadows Community Centre before the CAA lands were recommended to accommodate the high traffic volumes associated with major events.
On December 6, Council directed staff to report back on a framework and public-private partnership (P3) option for a multi-purpose cricket facility on the CAA lands at Brampton’s south-central edge, where the City retains ownership of all or most of the property, and options for possible private sector facility development and/or management.
On June 8, a series of interested parties made a presentation to the city, asking to transfer 110 acres of CAA lands in exchange for a commitment to construct a world-class Cricket stadium for $110 million covered by private partners.
The delegates represented a partnership between Cosmos Sports & Entertainment, Precinct Group, and Stafford Sports.
They propose a stadium built privately with the consortium taking on the operating risk.
Many details were left out of the proposal, such as guarantees that professional and international cricket bodies would hold events at the stadium, the exact number of fixed seats required to attract such matches, and how $110 million could cover construction when other sports facilities that are smaller cost at least twice that amount in 2022 dollars.
A cricket stadium built almost 20 years ago in Florida cost $70 million (USD) at that time. The CFL’s newest outdoor stadiums include Winnipeg’s IG Field whose construction began in 2010 and cost $210 million; and Regina’s Mosaic Stadium which saw construction begin in 2014 and cost $278 million.
There are still many questions unanswered about what the proposed cricket stadium would look like.
“Our goal is to create the first world class major league cricket oval in Canada, and if done quickly enough will be the first in North America, with 20,000 permanent seats on the CAA lands,” said presenter Cary Kaplan, from Cosmos Sports & Entertainment.
Co-presenter Jasper Kujavsky, lawyer and development consultant, pressed the need for immediate action.
“One of the things we want to indicate in terms of the time sensitivity of this is the fact that the 2024 Men’s International World Cup of T20 cricket has been awarded to the United States and West Indies,” Kujavsky said.
“We’re very confident that if we move expeditiously to at least put a significant part of this stadium in place here in Brampton in time for that we can secure games in that 2024 World Cup.”
It’s unclear what he based this on, how a stadium and complex could be built by 2024, what seating and other requirements would be needed to host the 2024 World Cup event, and what guarantees of hosting such future events would be in place if Council makes a snap decision.
The delegates said if council members act immediately, the stadium would be completed in 18 to 24 months.
Planning for an RFP process has not even been contemplated, and Mayor Patrick Brown failed to put funding in the City budget for four straight years, despite telling voters in 2018 the cricket stadium would be built by the end of this year.
The group of potential private investors asked for a 60-day period of confidential exclusive negotiations to consummate a memorandum of understanding with the City to move the project forward.
No cost details were provided, and the presentation included no specifics on agreements with international and professional cricket bodies. It’s unclear how local clubs and leagues would benefit.
Councillor Michael Palleschi pointed out the $1 million per acre valuation of the CAA lands, used by the group to convince members it was worthwhile to hand 110 acres to them for the project, was as much as four times less than what the land is actually worth. He said, at a minimum, its market value is $2.5 million an acre.
Despite the glaring lack of details, Mayor Brown was ready to send out a request for proposals that day for the plan to move forward.
“By delaying this it likely means the stadium will go to another city,” Brown said. “It may be something we regret. Ultimately it is the will of council but I think it is a unique opportunity to seize the momentum that exists for the cricket community in Canada and get that success here in the city.”
Councillor Jeff Bowman, who represents the ward it would be built in, called the proposal wonderful but was against rushing irresponsibly before many questions are addressed, asking council to do it “right.”
“Cricket is probably the fastest growing sport in this community, there’s probably a need for a cricket stadium. My issue with all of this is timelines,” Bowman said.
Councillor Jeff Bowman raised several questions about City staff's report on a future cricket stadium in Brampton.
(The Pointer files)
He advocated that staff and council shouldn’t look at the stadium by itself, but should analyze how the stadium fits into the area.
“I don’t like the fact that we’re sort of having to be forced to make a decision because we want to see this done in 16 to 18 months so we can potentially get games. There are so many variables in this, there are construction delays. There’s maybe strikes that might happen that will delay this further than the 16 to 18 months timelines.”
The city’s purchasing staff representative told council the requested 45 days to issue an RFP would be a challenge.
“I do not see any way that a) we can prepare a document in time given 45 days, and b) that proponents are truly interested in competing for this can prepare their own documents and get this back to the city in any length of time before our election,” Bowman added. “If we lose some games from this particular event, but the thing gets built and we get every other single event that’s wonderful news, but I look at how long things take to build.”
Councillor Martin Medeiros agreed, saying he loved the idea but “let’s do it right.”
“I don’t see the artificial timelines or the fact that we could qualify for a world cup or potentially get one, is going to make us jump to make hasty decisions. There’s a community right there that me and Councillor Bowman represent… right by Steeles and Kennedy. They would be hugely impacted by the traffic.”
Medeiros made reference to residents approaching him in the past about traffic congestion issues on Steeles Avenue.
“It’s not just a question of building the stadium, it’s the impact on residents, the impact on the community. You have a mosque right across the street, there has to be real good engagement,” he said.
“I don’t know how you can build the stadium and not connect it to what the surrounding vision is going to be.”
Councillor Harkirat Singh said he was more excited about the whole site, not just the stadium itself.
“The goal is [not] to build the stadium and have the CAA lands in isolation. I think they should be happening together,” Singh said. “It seems like the issue is we still have work to do on the planning of the CAA lands. So the issue is if we go and build the stadium, without having work done on the CAA lands, I don’t think we could get the best deal for the city, that’s just my opinion. I think we should do it in sync.”
Council ultimately voted to bring it back to staff for a more complete report, in a 6 to 4 vote.
Those opposed were Mayor Brown, Palleschi, Paul Vicente and Rowena Santos.
In support were Singh, Pat Fortini, Medeiros, Bowman, Doug Whillans and Gurpreet Dhillon.
In an interview with The Pointer after the meeting, Kaplan said he and the other delegates in his group were extremely disappointed with the response and it will likely cost the city the opportunity to have the facility built with no cost incurred to the city beyond the land transfer.
“I think they may have been so tied to that taxpayer funded stadium, that had some obstacles, but this is a privately funded venture that could bring a stadium to Brampton, the World Cup, a ton of international events,” Kaplan said.
“We’re going to be forced to move to another city because certain councillors are short-sighted… I don’t think they realize the implications, because it means there will not be a cricket stadium.”
Kaplan said he’s confident that there are other cities in Canada that will jump on the opportunity.
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