Ticats hope game experience just got 360 degrees better

The improvements to the game-day experience at Tim Hortons Field, unveiled this week by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, took root long before the stadium was built.

Several years ago, as they were analyzing proposed plans for their new home, the Tiger-Cats were acutely aware that what fans want and expect in live entertainment was evolving rapidly.

“There was an insight during the design process, ” says Matt Afinec, the Ticat executive v-p of business. “By design, there are all these great spaces at Tim Hortons Field.”

Those spaces are in obvious play with the “360-degree out-of-seat social viewing” projects the football team announced this week.

The “360” refers to fans being able to move from one side of the stadium to the other through both end zone areas, and to stop on either end zone patio to view the field. The “out-of-seat” part is just as it sounds. A certain portion of fans – generally, those under the age of 40 – no longer want to watch the game only from assigned seats. They want to feel less restricted, connect with friends and other fans in common areas and see the game from different angles.

“For the three years we’ve been in Tim Hortons Field, we’ve watched movement patterns, ” Afinec says. “We see how many people are standing, especially younger fans. After three years of observing and, more importantly, listening to our fans, we’ve come up with an added experience for our fans, and value-added for our partners (sponsors).”

The alterations include a massive 110-foot-long full service bar behind the south end zone, accessible to all ticket holders.

The touchdown steam whistle previously located in the east stands will now sit on a 12-foot pedestal in the south end patio.

“We found people love taking selfies with it, ” Afinec said.

“You can imagine on a game day the energy as it’s pumping out smoke and sound. It’ll be a focal point.”

About 80 per cent of the north end zone patio, previously restricted to assigned-ticket holders, will now be open to all ticket holders and there will be about 200 standing room tickets available at $29 per game.

There’s a craft gardens in the southeast corner.

And the first-level concourse under the east stands will house a community relaxation and TV-viewing lounge.

And the Findlay Family Zone in the northwest corner of the stadium will now have a 2,000-square-foot Ticats-themed playground.

As Spectator football writer Drew Edwards pointed out in a season preview, the Tiger-Cats are appealing to a younger demographic, which will become the core of their future fan base.

“No question, ” Afinec agrees. “We think, for instance, that the $29 ticket will put us in a good position to attract and keep attracting younger people.

“And families are central to our business.”

Afinec wouldn’t disclose how much has been spent on the reconstituted viewing areas.

However, he says: “Between the Ticats and our partners we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“And these areas are in place for all stadium events, including concerts and soccer, ” he said.

“We think the ability to travel 360 degrees is a uniquely Hamilton thing.

“In sport, we’re now in the day and age where you can’t dictate how people enjoy the game, ” Afinec said with certainty.

 

Field viewing enhancements for 2017

The Stipley:

•Named for the adjacent neighbourhood, spans width of south end zone

•Still has assigned tickets closest to field, but rest of patio – including 100-foot bar – open to all ticket holders

•Steam whistle relocated from north-east side to Stipley patio

Stripes’ Jungle Inside Findlay Family Zone:

•On concourse in south-west corner of stadium

•2,000 square-foot customized theme park; kids menu; mascot appearances

Craft Gardens:

•Southeast corner of stadium behind section 118, with craft beers and “inspiration from local eateries”

FirstOntario Credit Union Lounge:

•Out of the elements in lower concourse under east stands, no view of field

•High-def TVs, comfortable seating, Hamilton-based art and 40-foot-long photo wall, pictures submitted by Ticats fans

Coors Light Patio:

•Above north end zone

•Bar and viewing areas available to all ticket holders. Some assigned seating still in place

End Zone Social Tickets:

•Limited number (about 200) for each game, at $29

•General admission to stadium, and access to all social viewing areas

Steve Milton

Steve Milton

Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.
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Steve Milton
About Steve Milton (52 Articles)
Steve Milton is a long-time columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2012.

16 Comments on Ticats hope game experience just got 360 degrees better

  1. Jeff May // May 19, 2017 at 10:11 am //

    I’ve always enjoyed following the play when the game is on the line. Or going around the stadium, especially Ivor Wynne, and watch parts of the game with different friends seated throughout the stadium!
    This is great!

  2. mr62 cats // May 19, 2017 at 10:16 am //

    Very smart thinking!

  3. Smart or just following in the footsteps of Winnipeg and Saskatchewan? This is not a new concept.

    • mr62 cats // May 19, 2017 at 12:01 pm //

      Good for Winnipeg and Saskatchewan but it is apparent that Hamilton did enough research of their own before making a decision.
      No matter….the end result is certainly a benefit to the fans and the CFL. Let’s hope other teams (especially the Blue team) can implement similar fan-centred ideas.

    • Following the trends in fan preferences that have been influencing stadium design for a number of years now.

      I expect that if popularity of these types of common areas and lounges continues to grow we’ll see further adaptation and renos at many CFL stadia to incorporate them. Next step at THF would probably be building multilevel decks at one or both ends to make more space, but that’s an expensive change that probably wouldn’t happen for a while, depending on revenue potential (and it would have to be the team and its partners investing in that; the city would not likely put up money)

  4. mrnehnehincognito // May 19, 2017 at 3:56 pm //

    Glad to see the effort to improve the game day experience for young fans

  5. Lindsay Wilcox // May 19, 2017 at 5:55 pm //

    …and for us fans who have been buying season tickets for over 45 years ?
    How about closer, accessible parking ?
    And the Legacy Wall enhancement for 40+ year fans who have passed on ?

    Though it doesn’t matter if we long-time fans don’t renew, there are lots of young kids who don’t have a clue about the history of the team, but are willing to plop down a few bucks so they can socialize while watching the game on their WiFi phones.

    • Ticat Dad // May 23, 2017 at 2:53 pm //

      …… You meddling kids get off my grass (shaking fist from porch)

      Been taking my kids for years now to teach them love of the game and it’s always easier to get them back to the next game after they’ve met Stripes and the bouncy castles were out. Some accommodation goes a long way………

      Good point on parking.

  6. Well said Lindsay. I didn’t mind hurting my arse on the old Ivor Wynne stadium benches watching the cats play. And that’s all I did. I wasn’t interested in all the other crap that goes on during a game. I went to watch a FOOTBALL game.

    • mr62cats // May 20, 2017 at 9:47 am //

      Eagle: I hurt my arse many times too. And my back because of the bench seats. I also went to watch the game and the fan shenanigans. But now the fans, young and old, have a choice. That’s a good thing.

  7. “Families are central to our business.”

    Just a thought: maybe include some afternoon games in the schedule. Seven of the nine home games start at 7:00pm or later. The other two? 6:30 pm. The final whistle is past a lot of bedtimes, never mind the drive home.

  8. This story is refreshing as it shows that someone is wanting to break out of the pack and make a game day experience that will get viewers off their sofas watching games (especially double headers).

    My take based on my own experience has been in correlation to the quality and amount of TSN broadcasts.

    As the quality and volume of games improved on TSN with pre-game and panels, it’s been harder to get out of the house for the stadium here in BC.

    If you watch a TSN telecast at home you hear over the course of the game what the players and coaches said to the broadcast crew and you hear background info on players you don’t get at the games.

    Whoever decided to track fan movements and actions is thinking we need to see across the CFL.

  9. Jeff259 // May 20, 2017 at 9:51 pm //

    Time for the stamps to get innovative and evolve into the new millennium with their game day experience. The stadium is archaic, but they can take steps to improve how fans can experience the games. Attending a stamps game is like taking a time machine back to the 1970’s and 80’s. Same music, same activities during breaks in game play for the past 20 years.

  10. Ticats63 // May 22, 2017 at 8:11 am //

    Fan experience improvements are good news, to attract the younger (paying) crowds, but I sure hope improvements to the food SERVICE (emphasis on the word “SERVICE”) is part of this plan. While you can usually get a beer in a couple of minutes, waiting 5, 10, 15+ minutes during the game to get a hot dog (usually luke-warm, if you’re lucky) or a slice of pizza, does nothing to enhance the game day experience.

  11. Ticats63 // May 22, 2017 at 8:14 am //

    One thing I forgot to mention above that is a big selling point in drawing more fans to the game: You don’t have to endure Black and Forde on TSN!

  12. Dan Bombers // May 22, 2017 at 4:57 pm //

    That alone is worth it !!

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