It is a facility, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats say, any city would love: A state-of-the-art CFL home field, a community legacy and a flexible venue for hosting major events such as the Grey Cup.
Friday at Ivor Wynne Stadium, during a news conference that featured school children and fireworks, officials from the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games unveiled artist renderings of the new $145.7-million facility, slated to open in the summer of 2014.
The stadium, which will be home to the Pan Am men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, will be built on a 5.45-hectare spot where Ivor Wynne currently stands. It will have a capacity of roughly 24,000 for football, with the ability to expand to 40,000.
Despite the decrease from the current building’s 29,600, “I think the capacity is perfect,” Ticats president Scott Mitchell said. “I think very quickly we would like to engage with the city to talk about putting a bid together to host the Grey Cup.”
CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, on hand for Friday’s announcement, said the size is just fine, comparing it to the reworked Frank Clair Stadium planned for the incoming Ottawa franchise.
He said when Infrastructure Ontario was working on the Hamilton designs, it consulted the CFL about what attributes would be needed for a Grey Cup game. (Hamilton last played host to the CFL title match in 1996.)
“I think an intimate smaller stadium creates a great environment for CFL football,” Cohon said.
Team owner Bob Young said that’s where the flexibility of the design comes in.
“If you can bring more seats for a Grey Cup, then it begs the question: what can you do if you happen to sell more season tickets than seats?” Young said. “As we need extra seats we can get them. Keep in mind, our average crowd is 24,000 now. If our season ticket grows big enough, don’t be surprised to find the stadium growing, too.”
The new stadium, to be renamed Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium at Games time, is jointly funded by the federal government ($69.3-million), the province of Ontario ($22.3-million), and the City of Hamilton ($54.1-million).
Demolition of Ivor Wynne is to begin in December, with the goal of having the Tiger-Cats return to play for the 2014 CFL season.
Its architect called the design, “athlete-focused”. It will be rotated 90 degrees from its current configuration to run north-south and best account for sun and wind comply with FIFA stadium guidelines. It will have a large view of the Niagara Escarpment from inside the stadium and a large plaza on the south side to host events and act as a fan gathering spot. It will have 30 private suites and 700 club seats. The design plans boast superior sightlines throughout, bigger individual seats with more leg room, a world-class high-definition video board, restaurant-quality concessions and a merchandise store.
Cohon and the Ticats both said they hope to have plans concluded by season’s end regarding where the teams will play and practice in 2013 while the construction is ongoing. Cohon said the league is helping to facilitate those plans. Options for game venues reportedly include the University of Western Ontario in London, Moncton and other CFL venues, but all parties are being very tight-lipped.
“I think city council did a great job. They have a responsibility to the tax payers in this city to make sure the money is being spent responsibly,” Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, we had a stadium that was going to be a $90-million renovation or a much smaller investment by the city to get a brand new facility. It has turned out extremely well for everyone – it was a long road to get here, but a great day.”