By: Surjit Singh Flora
Brampton will review its finances before a $35 million funding commitment is made to build a cricket stadium.
The city hit the “temporary pause button” after a Committee of Council meeting held last Wednesday (Oct. 13), in which councillors debated the merits of the project, particularly as it pertains to a staff report suggesting a building site for the stadium near the CAA Centre.
The development, originally planned for a $5 million budget allocation by city officials in September and planned for the Gore Meadows area, received a revised development cost of $35 million, with $30 million planned through the 2022 budget and a changed build site — but questions about the changed scope led to debates last week among councillors regarding unanswered questions surrounding the project.
Mayor Patrick Brown, a strong proponent of the development since the success of cricket-based initiatives like the Global T20 League matches held at the centre in 2019, reiterated his support for the project, pointing out that it is important due to the popularity of cricket and the benefits it brings to the community through physical exercise and fitness.
Brown suggested that citizens would be less concerned if the city built a facility for soccer, baseball or hockey, but it may not be comparable. Anand Patel (the city’s director of recreation) also stated that the city does not have “anything comparable’ to the proposed stadium, as per a statement made during last week’s meeting, though recent comments suggest that the stadium could also function as a soccer field.
Wards 3 & 4 regional councillor Martin Medeiros also expressed concern about investing so much in a stadium that might only be used once, while representatives of local cricket groups expressed their concerns regarding the sport’s future growth. “Sometimes I feel that cricket is a second-class citizen in the city,” Brampton Cricket League president Faraz Saleem said during an impassioned speech about the value of the project and the possibility of a shared-use facility. Saleem suggested that the stadium could host other sports, but it would depend on the different sports.
Praim Persaud, the president of the Brampton- Etobicoke District Cricket Leagues, and Saleem both stressed that the sport is becoming so popular that it may not be accessible to other users due to the number of people who want it to play — and that dozens of teams have been turned away from the league due to a lack of space.
Persaud and Saleem both stated that their leagues cannot accommodate all players due to the lack of facilities in the city. Saleem also indicated that, despite the popularity of cricket in Brampton’s backyard, it only makes up 0.6 per cent of the City’s parks and recreation budget. While both Presaud and Saleem suggested that the stadium would be a boost to the city’s economy, Brampton resident Sylvia Roberts said it could actually drain City resources.
Roberts stated that the stadium’s size — it is expected to hold up to 25,000 spectators, with temporary seating — will cause traffic congestion. She said that this could cost significantly more than $35 million if it was not for the increased transportation infrastructure.
“How are 25,000 people supposed to access the site?” she asked councillors, noting that that the potential site is connected by a single, four-lane road, and that it cannot handle anything “even remotely close” to a stadium seating 25,000. “On a good day, the intersection of Kennedy and Steeles has been a disaster.
This could only get worse,” said Roberts. The city will still have six weeks to consider the stadium. Medeiros introduced a motion last week that will refer the matter to the city’s next budget committee meeting scheduled for Nov. 29.