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Young still committed to bringing NASL to Hamilton, despite stadium debate

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Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ owner Bob Young still has plans to bring a North American Soccer League expansion franchise to Hamilton, even though he and the city are still at philosophical odds over the site for the construction of a new stadium. Young and the city have been through numerous discussions about the 15,000-seat stadium, which is to be built for the 2015 Pan American Games.

Both the Canadian federal and provincial governments have promised to put money into the cost of building the stadium, along with the city. Young has promised to provide some $10 million towards the stadium construction and, among other things, has indicated he will pursue an NASL franchise to steer the city council towards a site he prefers. The stadium would have to be expanded to fit 25,000-30,000 to make it suitable for the Canadian Football League’s template.

Young is already an investor in the Carolina RailHawks of the NASL.

The city of Hamilton, under the previous mayor, wanted a stadium in downtown Hamilton, but Young wanted one closer to a highway because if would be accessible easier and provide income for parking.

The Pan Am Games Host Committee has given the city until February 1 to make a final decision or it will strongly consider moving the soccer stadium and the proposed funds to another municipality.

Burlington, which was once part of Hamilton, has come into play because of an prominent land developing company which is willing to build a stadium on land that has already been designated for a 9,000-seat hockey arena. The plan would include building retail stores, restaurants and condominium housing in what would become a sports/entertainment complex. So far, some of the Burlington city council has raised concerns with the stadium fearing cost overruns, which would be born by the taxpayers.

The plan was revealed just before the new year after Hamilton city council rejected the new mayor’s motion to consider a site which had been previously ignored, although it is one Young endorses. Hamilton city council reconvenes on January 14 and the motion will be raised again. The new mayor, Bob Bratina, is a veteran broadcaster in Hamilton who did radio play-by-play for the Ticats for 30 years. He is pushing hard to keep the team in Hamilton.

Whatever happens, Young still plans to pursue the NASL bid, but it’s a question now of where that team will play.

Young bought the Ticats for $2 million from the CFL following the 2003 season and immediately sunk money into beautifying Ivor Wynne Stadium, where the team has played since 1950, with a $2-million scoreboard and beautifying the premises. Overall, he has lost more than $30 million owning the Ticats, which haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs and have finished last in the league more than once under his ownership banner. Young prefers to call himself a caretaker rather than an owner.

Young has committed his team to play in Hamilton until at least 2013 if a new stadium is being built.

If the whole plan fails to materialize, Young will have various options with his CFL team, including selling or relocating it.

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