Hamilton’s Stadium Precinct - Community building
June 24, 2015
By Leah Wong
Hamilton’s lower city will soon see construction on a new precinct which will bring much needed educational, recreational and leisure opportunities to the community to meet the area’s changing demographics.
City staff presented a concept plan for the South Stadium Precinct to general issues committee June 17. The precinct outlines plans for a new civic facility comprising a new recreation centre, secondary school and outdoor courtyard, and the existing Jimmy Thompson Pool.
“This is a transformational project, which will see $200-million invested into this area,” Ward 3 councillor Matthew Green told committee. “This is going to be an absolute anchor, a city-wide jewel that we can all be proud of.”
The city owns around 5.25 acres of the site and the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board owns 1.47 acres within the same block. Committee supported entering into a joint development and construction agreement with HWDSB for the design and construction of the Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre, the new school and related amenities on the site.
The joint agreement should reduce project costs for both the city and the school board which include using the same architect for both the centre and school and working together on the construction hoarding. The funding needed for shared costs will be shared on a percentage basis.
Hamilton corporate initiatives director Paul Johnson told committee the board and the city are not joining together to build the facilities, but have acknowledged that a seven-acre site is tight and are working together to make the space work. This will optimize use of the site and create further opportunities for community use of school space.
“It’s a great effort by all, including the synergy between the school board and the city,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger. “There are a lot of efficiencies that can be found by working together. It’s music to my ears that we’re sharing an architect.”
The Stadium Precinct is located on the site of the former Scott Park School and Scott Park Arena. To date the school and arena have been demolished and the Scott Park Secondary school will be demolished prior to the Pan Am Games. The existing Jimmy Thompson Memorial Pool will be preserved and there are plans to physically connect it to the recreation centre.
Council previously provided funding for construction of the Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre-named for the former Ward 3 councillor who died in January 2014-which will provide dedicated space for seniors and activity space for the community.
“This has been the dream of the late, great Bernie Morelli, who I know, in at least two terms prior, had a vision of a seniors centre in the lower city,” said Green.
While the centre includes dedicated space for seniors’ activities, flexibility is being built into the design to ensure that the facility is adaptable as community needs change. There is presently a large senior population in the area, but the facility is being built to last at least 40-50 years and must be adaptable to future needs.
“There was a desire from the community to have recreation for all ages at this facility,” said Johnson. “This is really embedding a standalone seniors’ centre within a larger facility.”
There is some flexibility being created in the new school as well. The three-storey secondary school is being constructed in an L-shape with communal spaces located closest to the recreation centre. Outside of school hours the gymnasium will be used by the community.
The precinct will also house a two-acre outdoor courtyard, which will act as a gateway plaza to the Tiger-Cats’ stadium. The plaza connects to the stadium across Cannon Street, which in the future could be closed to cars to create a continuous gathering area during games or for other activities in the precinct.
The site is located in Ward 3, but it has taken city-wide cooperation to fund the project. Ward 8 councillor Terry Whitehead said this is an example where the “Mountain” has come to the table to make sure a major project that another community needs gets done. For example, when the Westmount Recreation Centre project came in under budget the remaining funds were shifted off the mountain to this project.