Hamilton councillor says CFL owes city some Grey Cups

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A Hamilton councillor is demanding the Canadian Football League honour what he says is a commitment to bring two Grey Cups to the city within the next ten years.

Ward 4’s Sam Merulla plans to introduce a motion at council next week directing city staff to meet with the league and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats so the city can host a Grey Cup “as soon as possible.”

Merulla says the league dangled the championship games when council was discussing the pros and cons of contributing $60.2 million to the $145 million Pan Am Stadium project. Due to limitations presented by the old Ivor Wynne Stadium, the city hasn’t hosted a Grey Cup since 1996.

“During the great stadium debate, I can recall vividly the CFL stating clearly in correspondence and presentations that Hamilton would have two Grey Cups within 10 years of the stadium becoming occupied for football,” Merulla said in an interview. “The two Grey Cups signify a commitment from the CFL that they need to keep.”

CFL vice-president of communication Matt Maychak says the Grey Cup is coming to Hamilton – it’s just a matter of when.

“The bottom line is that the Ticats want to bid on a Grey Cup for Hamilton and I’m sure our Board of Governors looks forward to bringing the game there,” Maychak said Wednesday. “Hamilton is a great football city and Tim Hortons is a state-of-the-art facility. We all expect the Grey Cup to come to Hamilton at an appropriate time.”

But the city will likely be waiting at least a few years longer. It’s been widely reported that the 2016 Grey Cup game will be played in Toronto – which hosted the event in 2012 – before heading to Ottawa for 2017 as part of the country’s 150th anniversary celebrations. The CFL has yet to make a formal announcement.

“We just attended Grey Cup in Toronto and I was a little bit surprised that they were on the list again so quickly,” Merulla said.

The are other issues. Stadium builder Ontario Sports Solutions has yet to provide details of the expansion which would allow Tim Hortons Field to go from its normal configuration of 24,500 seats to the 35,000 necessary to host the Grey Cup. It’s one of hundreds of deficiencies still outstanding and the city is holding back $6 million from the builder as a result.

The terms of the 20-year lease agreement between the city and the Ticats states they will work together to make “reasonable efforts to bid for the right to host two Grey Cups during the first ten years subject to mutual agreement of the Tiger-Cats and the City.”

While it’s the team who applies to the league to host the Grey Cup, an organizing committee of civic leaders typically spearheads the effort and Ticats’ CEO Scott Mitchell says Merulla motion is a positive step.

“I think it’s very helpful. We’re long overdue to hold a Grey Cup in Hamilton,” Mitchell said. “I think everyone understands how massively successful Tim Hortons Field has been and I think it’s great to hear that council is behind getting the process started.”

The Grey Cup isn’t just about the game: it’s become a week-long event that generates a massive amount of income for the host city and franchise. The 2013 Grey Cup in Saskatchewan – which the host Riders won 45-23 over the Ticats – generated $93 million in economic benefit to the province and boosted the team’s bottom line by $9.3 million
It would enable us to showcase the renaissance the city continues to go through on a national stage,” Merulla said. “Part of the incentive for the city to support the stadium was that we would see two Grey Cups.”

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