Hamilton Spectator: Pro Soccer Returns to City

Pro soccer returns to city

Lease agreement last hurdle today

Ken Peters
The Hamilton Spectator

A Hamilton professional soccer revival is rumbling across the city's sports landscape after an 11-year absence.

The Hamilton Thunder -- a fledgling franchise in the 14-team Canadian Professional Soccer League, appears set to kick into action on Saturday.

Hamilton's third professional sport team expects to clear its final hurdle today when city councillors approve a one-year lease for city-owned Brian Timmis Stadium.

The Thunder debut marks a return of professional soccer to Steeltown after a 11-year absence.

The Hamilton Steelers called Brian Timmis home for five seasons as part of the Canadian Soccer League before folding in 1991.

The Thunder lease pact would see the club pay the city $1,000 per game for its 13 games.

That's down from the $4,000 per game rental city staff had originally pitched.

A city staff report suggests the city is foregoing some $68,000 in potential revenue by not charging full cost recovery for Brian Timmis, Mohawk Sports Park and Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The Thunder has practices planned at the latter two facilities.

But the club has spent $15,000 to repair the dilapidated south bleachers at the stadium, giving the team a seating capacity of 6,000 of its inaugural season.

Thunder general manager Nick Catalano said the club is happy with the proposed lease pact.

Catalano said once the lease pact is signed by the city, it clears the way for the Thunder to proceed with its scheduled exhibition game Saturday at 4 p.m. against the Toronto Lynx. Proceeds from the $4 admission price will be split between Hamilton minor soccer and a child refugee charity, Catalano confirmed.

The club's home opener is set for May 23 against the Vaughan Sun Devils.

Tickets are available by calling the Thunder office at 905-529-5565.

Hamilton Councillor Frank D'Amico expects the lease won't create a political roar at the committee-of-the-whole session today.

D'Amico downplayed the loss of revenue that results from the Thunder pact. He noted the city provides the Bulldogs with $78,000 annually. The city also spends $700,000 a year to operate Ivor Wynne Stadium, while offering the facility to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for about $5,000 a season.

"I think what it says is Hamilton is a great place to do business for professional sports teams," he said yesterday.

Contact Ken Peters at kpeters@hamiltonspectator.com or 905-526-3388.

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