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
•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
•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
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