September 10, 2005 CPSL story on Hamilton Thunder forced out of town (from Hamilton Spectator)

Thunder loses its playing field, park rental fees to city unpaid
Posted on Saturday, September 10 @ 13:25:58 EDT by steelers

By Larry Moko
The Hamilton Spectator

Forget about going to Brian Timmis Stadium for Hamilton Thunder soccer games.

There won't be any more played there this season.

The team failed to pay park rental fees -- a debt over several years of $26,074.21 -- and so Hamilton has pulled the plug on the Thunder and won't allow the Canadian Professional Soccer League club to use any of its playing fields.

The team's practice facility was at Mohawk Sports Park.

The Thunder has three remaining home games which all have been shifted to the Soccer Centre in Vaughan as an alternate site. The games are tonight at 8 p.m. against Laval Dynamites; Thursday, Sept.15, at 9 p.m. against Vaughan Shooters; and Thursday, Sept. 22, at 9 p.m. against Toronto Croatia.

The division-leading Hamilton club also has three road games left on the schedule against Brampton Stallions, Oakville Blue Devils and Toronto Supra.

"Any of our fans who do travel to the games in Vaughan will be admitted at no charge," said Thunder general manager Paul Ferguson. "Of course, too, as we move forward, I'll have to see about refunds for our season-ticket holders."

Stan Adamson, director of media and public relations for the CPSL, said the league and the Thunder's opponents have approved the switch in venues.

Council first put its foot down last month when it denied the Thunder access to their scheduled Aug. 18 game against St. Catharines Wolves. The two clubs agreed to play in the Garden City, instead.

"Nothing has changed since we advised them they could no longer use the fields," said Bill Fenwick, the city's director of culture and recreation.

"We did have discussions with Paul Ferguson about releasing the park for the final three games. But they haven't been able to honour the current commitment, let alone the past debt. I think they owe us $16,900 from last season and around $10,000 for this season."

Fenwick said he recently told the team's general manager that if the Thunder was able to pay its current debt, he would poll council to see if it would be in favour of allowing park access. "They have not come in to do so."

The first-year Hamilton general manager said of immediate concern to the CPSL is that the games be played.

"But let's face it," Ferguson said, "there are going to be repercussions. The league is going to look into what happened and why. We'll have to be prepared to satisfy them with appropriate answers and make whatever changes that are necessary."

The Thunder's record is 7-3-6.

"I want to make sure the players are able to finish what has been a decent season. I think we'll win the division again. This can't continue for soccer to survive here. We need professional soccer in Hamilton. This has to get fixed," said Ferguson.

"It's unfortunate that it has come to this," he said.

This is the fourth year of operation for the Thunder franchise.

The top three teams in both the East and West conferences qualify for the playoffs with first-place finishers gaining an opening-round bye.

The league's semifinals and final will be played at North York's Esther Shiner Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 8, and Monday, Oct. 10. 905-526-2458

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