Article by Matthew Van Dongen, Hamilton Spectator
A medical marijuana company has abandoned plans to grow pot in a popular indoor sports facility in Stoney Creek less than a year after local soccer players got the boot.
Area soccer clubs were caught off-guard last year when a consortium bought the Players Paradise building on Seaman Street with plans to convert it to pot production by Green Relief Inc., a Flamborough-based marijuana grower specializing in aquaponics.
Then-CEO Warren Bravo said the expansion would create up to 100 local jobs and offered $10,000 in relocation help for the Saltfleet Stoney Creek Soccer Club after the building closed last October.
But now, the building is up for lease again and Green Relief has a new CEO who says the company has “pivoted its focus” from cultivation.
“We are focused on pure medical,” said Dr. Neilank Jha, a neurosurgeon who completed a residency at McMaster University and is considered a pioneer in cannabis-based treatments for concussion.
Jha said the company will continue to grow marijuana for customers at its original 30,000-square-foot medical cannabis facility on the edge of Flamborough, but will otherwise focus on research, clinical trials and “building medicines.”
“We are no longer leasing the (Stoney Creek) facility,” said Jha.
The abrupt change in plans has spurred both private sports businesses and volunteer organizations to tour the Seaman Street building in case there is an opportunity to resurrect high-end indoor soccer.
Local soccer players were “very disappointed” when the popular building closed last fall, said Tom Walsh, who heads the Hamilton and district association for the sport. It’s estimated more than 3,000 players of various ages made use of the former Players Paradise.
“It was a great place to train and play. I think there is a high-level hope that maybe someone could bring it back,” said Walsh. “But I don’t think many volunteer-based groups would have the financial wherewithal.”
The broker for the building did not respond to Spectator questions. But the leasing package for the property suggests a rate of nearly $8 per square foot for the entire 100,000-square-foot building.
Saltfleet Stoney Creek soccer president Sam Di Santo said his group talked briefly about leasing part of the building — which still has all of its artificial turf — “but the numbers didn’t work.”