Burlington’s mayor says the Hamilton Bulldogs owner has made contact with the city to discuss a potential future in Halton Region.
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward told Global News Radio’s Bill Kelly that the team’s owner, Michael Andlauer, has talked to the city and its economic development group about the possibility of relocating the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise to the region following Hamilton’s decision to pass on Andlauer’s proposal for a 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall.
“We have great hockey culture here in Burlington and in the whole region,” Meed Ward said.
“If it makes sense to our community and it makes sense to the Bulldogs, then, you know, we’re very interested in a conversation and see where it goes.”
In January, Hamilton city councillors failed to bite on a plan to build from scratch a $126-million, 6,000-seat arena on the Mountain after a city report from the economic development and planning department recommended turning down the idea for financial reasons.
Following the decision, Andlauer, the 54-year-old businessman and majority owner of the OHL team, told Global News he would have to consider other options in housing his franchise, even those “from outside” the city “not too far away.”
“Because of this report, because of the press, I have had interests,” Andlauer said following an 11-3 vote by Hamilton councillors against participating in a development with Cadillac Fairview at the Mountain mall.
“But at the end of the day, I have to look at all my alternatives. I’ll do what’s in the best interests for fans. And we’ll go from there.”
In August 2019, Andlauer put forward a proposal to Hamilton city council for the construction of a Mountain arena in which he would foot $30 million of its initial cost.
A move to Burlington would require an arena to be built, according to Meed Ward, who says the largest arena the city currently has can only hold hundreds of spectators.
When asked whether Burlington would be open to the idea of a similar arena-building partnership with a developer at one of the city’s two malls, Meed Ward said city officials would likely be open to that idea.
“We’d be open to anything that makes sense,” said Meed Ward.
“It’s very, very early days of sort of exploring that. But, you know, we’re open to a conversation where we’re not about to write a huge taxpayer cheque, but we have other avenues open to us.”
Meed Ward also said she sees any new facility as one for the community and not exclusively for the Bulldogs and potential live concerts.
“It would be far more than that,” she said. “It would be an entertainment venue and a community gathering space.”