Council Eyeing Velodrome

From the Milton Canadian Champion By Christina Commisso

Council eyeing velodrome

The Pan Am Games velodrome has sparked the interest of Milton council.

The velodrome, an indoor track for cycling, is the only major Pan Am sports venue that’s still without a home after the City of Hamilton decided to cap its funding for the $45 million project at $5 million. Organizers, however, were looking for the host municipality to fund 44 per cent of the capital costs — about $20 million.

They’ve now reached out to communities who previously expressed an interest in hosting a Pan Am event, one of them being the Town of Milton.

“We did not go seeking this, they came to us to see if we could be interested,” Mayor Gord Krantz said during a committee meeting Monday. “I’m interested.”

However, Krantz said he wouldn’t be looking to the taxpayers to fund the local share of the project. Rather, it would be funded, if possible, through private partnerships.

The Town is proposing the Milton Education Village (MEV) location, a 150 acre-site at Derry and Tremaine Roads, house a permanent velodrome. If Pan Am organizers opt for a temporary facility, the Town is proposing the Derry Green Business Park or any existing vacant building in Milton.   

In a letter addressed to Krantz, organizers indicate they require a “shovel ready” site between five and six acres to be provided by the municipality by January 31, 2013.

Milton’s CAO Mario Belvedere pointed out the deadlines for the Pan Am site are similar to those of the MEV. Council has previously said the MEV would be shovel-ready by early 2013.

“Is that just a coincidences, or something we can look at more vigorously,” said Belvedere. “There are opportunities for project partnering by looking at other community partners who are already in place for the education village.”

But he warned that Hamilton had more than a year to work out site-selection and funding for the velodrome, and that still wasn’t enough time.

Milton has been given about a six-week window.

Organizers are looking for municipalities to express their interest and propose a site by tomorrow and a binding agreement to be signed with a host municipality by November 30.  

“Simply put, we haven’t had enough time to ask the appropriate questions,” said Belvedere.

Some of those questions include whether the interior of the velodrome could be modified to include other sports, what kind of operating subsidy would the Town receive to help with the ongoing costs of the velodrome and if the entire project can meet Pan Am’s tight timeframe.

Asked if the Town can meet the November 30 deadline, Belvedere responded, “absolutely not.”

“To be fair no one could meet those timelines. No one could put together a $40 million project in six weeks,” he said.

Krantz reiterated that he has no intentions of putting the Town’s finances in jeopardy and that the project would only move forward with private sector support.

 “There’s no doubt in my mind the Milton Education Village will be built in the next two, three, or five years. Will this fit in the college? I think it’s a perfect fit.”

He continued, “I’m looking 10, 20 years out to what the benefits of this facility may be.”

Krantz said three or four communities were approached by Pan Am organizers about the project.

While the committee voted express their interest in the Pan Am velodrome, several councillors raised concerns about the project.

“We only have six weeks for binding agreement. That’s not enough time for public feedback and that makes me nervous,” said Ward 8 Councillor Zeeshan Hamid.

He requested that the Town host a public meeting regarding the velodrome, but Belvedere said it’s best to wait and see if a private partner is found, as the velodrome wouldn’t move forward without one.

Hamid also raised concerns about ongoing operating costs.

Ward 6 Councillor Mike Cluett asked if there has been any indication from the Province regarding when MEV will move forward.

“There’s been no real contact at this early stage by the government or the ministry,” said Belvedere. “Prior to the election it was opinion of the ministry that they needed to move quickly on securing an additional 40,000 new spaces in the GTA, and that was a high priority.”

Ward 2 Councillor Greg Nelson said a velodrome would be a “hard sell” for downtown residents.

“With the hospital expansion and underpass underway, residents expect us to move forward with a razor-sharp focus,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t support funding the project with taxpayer dollars. “I hope we have Donald Trump or Richard Branson on speed dial.”

The velodrome will be an International Sports Federation-approved facility and will be used for Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games track cycling events and for training. The four-seasons velodrome will have a 250-metre track and will serve as the national training centre for Cycle Canada.

Belvedere said if organizers opt for a temporary site at the Derry Green Business Park, it would mean that area of town would receive water and wastewater services ahead of schedule. A temporary facility would be housed in a dome. When the games are over, the track would be removed and the dome could be used for indoor sports.

Mississauga councillors were expected to decide whether to bid on the velodrome at a meeting today.

A status report on the project will be presented at the November 21 Milton council meeting.

 

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