Council selects Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P to revitalize Hamilton’s entertainment district

Press Release

HAMILTON, ON – Today, in a historic decision, Hamilton City Council announced that the City will move forward with the development plan from Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P. (known as ‘the Precinct Group’) to deliver entertainment, culture, and renewed vitality to Hamilton’s downtown core. The Precinct Group’s plan includes a modernized arena, a newly renovated convention centre and concert hall, significant investment in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, as well as new residential, affordable housing, office and retail space development.

Today’s announcement signals an important first step in the development process. Next steps include negotiations between the City and the Precinct Group to create a “Master Agreement”, which is expected to be finalized in late 2020. The completion of this “Master Agreement” would see arena renovations beginning in the Fall of 2021.

In addition to taking on all capital costs for the renewal of the City’s entertainment facilities, under the plan approved by Council today, the Precinct Group would take over responsibility for the operations and maintenance of the FirstOntario Centre and the FirstOntario Concert Hall for a period of 99 years and of the Hamilton Convention Centre indefinitely, without any monetary contribution from the City. In a 2019 study completed by Ernst and Young, the elimination of the City’s ongoing subsidization and capital commitments at its entertainment assets would provide Hamilton taxpayers with $155M in savings over the next 30 years. The City’s contribution to this initiative involves City owned lands in the downtown core and deferrals of a portion of any additional property taxes resulting from the new developments.

The Precinct Group’s proposed $50M renovation of FirstOntario Centre includes a new building exterior, comprehensive transformation of the lower bowl, expanded concourse level, and a new flexible and attractive curtaining system for the upper bowl balcony. Fans will have access to premium amenities like a microbrewery, suites, and hospitality clubs. Fans will also have year-round access to the experience through street-level hospitality activations on York Blvd. and Bay Street. The management of the transformed arena will pursue global partnerships to supply top touring artists and live events in the facility. The Precinct Group looks forward to the continued partnership with the Hamilton Bulldogs as the arena’s anchor tenant.

In addition to the comprehensive arena transformation, the Precinct Group’s plan also includes over $16M in capital upgrades to the existing Hamilton Convention Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall, and Art Gallery of Hamilton. As well, an estimated $340.5M in auxiliary mixed-use development, including affordable housing, will be part of any residential developments that stem from this initiative.

The City of Hamilton would like to thank Darko Vranich and his Vrancor Group team for their continued investment in the Hamilton community. While their proposal was not ultimately selected, Vrancor Group invested significant time and effort into this process. The City commends Vrancor Group for their vision, professionalism and passion for our city, and looks forward to more opportunities to work together as part of Hamilton’s transformation story.

The Precinct Group’s proposed revitalization plan lays the foundation for a world-class entertainment precinct, right in the heart of downtown Hamilton, that will drive additional tourism and serve as a premier sports, entertainment, and cultural center for all Hamiltonians. On behalf of Council, I would like to thank the Precinct Group, Vrancor, and all other private sector entities that participated in this process.” – Mayor Fred Eisenberger, City of Hamilton

“The transformed arena will be a destination for sports fans, music lovers, and families, creating a first-class guest experience in the urban heart of the Greater Hamilton area. We also look forward to working with the Hamilton Bulldogs to ensure they have a modernized facility to call home for years to come.”

 “While our Precinct Group is proud to have been recommended in this process, we want to extend our thanks and appreciation to our competitor. Both proponents have demonstrated a significant commitment to the urban core, and we look forward to working with the Vrancor Group in helping urban Hamilton reach its ultimate potential.” – PJ Mercanti, Precinct Group President and Carmen’s Group CEO

Quick facts

  • The Precinct Group is a forward-thinking private-sector consortium including LiUNA, Fengate Capital, Meridian Credit Union, Paletta Group, and Carmen’s Group. The Precinct Group’s mission is to honour and enrich the communities they build in with thoughtfully designed arts, entertainment, sports, residential, commercial and mixed-use properties.
  • On December 1, 2017, Hamilton City Council approved a motion that directed staff to investigate opportunities for a private sector-led redevelopment of the FirstOntario Centre, the Hamilton Convention Centre, and the FirstOntario Concert Hall.
  • In the Summer of 2019, Ernst and Young (EY) completed a comprehensive review of the FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre, collectively referred to as Hamilton’s Entertainment Venues.
  • Upon completion of the Entertainment Venues Review, Council directed staff to engage with various private sector entities to explore their interest in a potential reimagined Downtown Entertainment Precinct, and staff marketed the investment opportunity over a 3-month period.
  • In February 2020, Council authorized and directed staff to simultaneously negotiate proposed private sector offerings through Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with each of Vrancor Group Inc. and Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group L.P., for a period not to exceed 120 days, with respect to the redevelopment of Hamilton’s Entertainment Venues.

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