We still haven’t enjoyed even the first day of glorious sunshine and baking heat that comes with a long-awaited Hamilton summer. So it might seem a little premature — some might say a little unfair — to already begin talking about the fall.
Except around here, Labour Day is never really a bad word. And this year, that day has the potential to be even more intriguing.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and McMaster Marauders announced Tuesday they’ve teamed up to host Football Day in Hamilton. The Marauders will open it by playing the University of Toronto Blues at noon at Tim Hortons Field. At 6:30, the Ticats will close it by playing their traditional rivals from Toronto on the same turf.
That’s a nice package for football fans. But what makes this really interesting is what comes in the three hours or so between the two games. The folks behind Supercrawl — which happens a week later — will produce a free concert on the south plaza of the stadium featuring a lineup comprised exclusively of Hamilton bands.
“It’s really a celebration of the game and a celebration of the city,” says Ticats’ chief commercial officer Matt Afinec.
He’s not wrong. This has a chance to be really good when you consider the pieces of this puzzle.
The unofficial last day of summer has always been special for the Ticats and their fans. That day’s game against the Argos is the highlight of the regular-season calendar. Plumping up that package and boosting the experience will surely be a crowd pleaser.
Supercrawl is already a winner in this city. Whenever the weather holds — and even sometimes it doesn’t — the event fills James Street North and the surrounding streets with locals and visitors out to hear bands and check out various artists. In short order it’s become one of this town’s calling cards. Even so, having a chance to promote the festival a bit can’t hurt.
The real winner in this though has to be McMaster. For years now, the Marauders have fielded a strong, often championship-calibre team. Yet because of scheduling conflicts their opener has often overlapped with the Ticats’ game or has been played at a less-desirable time. Either way, many football fans have been prevented from seeing them kick off.
This has arguably had an impact on attendance numbers all season. After all, if you miss the start of a TV series, are you going to jump in later? Same theory goes here.
Yet that exact problem was about to happen again. Mac was scheduled to open its season on the Sunday evening before Labour Day which frankly, was a less-than-desirable time. This point came up in the discussion when Mac athletic director Glen Grunwald, Afinec and Ticats’ CEO Scott Mitchell went out for lunch a while back.
“Maybe this was the opportunity to put something together,” Grunwald said.
Presto, idea born. The Ticats started working on a plan. The U of T agreed to the time switch. Ontario University Athletics jumped at it. Suddenly, the foundations of a pretty nice day at the park were in place.
Supercrawl boss Tim Potocic then came into the picture. Actually, let’s rephrase that. Because he was in the picture waiting for a chance to crawl in. This was suddenly it.
“Basically, the last two years I’ve been sitting down with (the Ticats) on a regular basis … basically trying to come up with some way we could work together,” he says. “It was sort of initiated really from the Tiger-Cats’ side, who reached out and said, ‘Hey, maybe we should talk about doing some stuff together when the stadium is done.’ I said, sure. They’ve been trying to find something that would work ever since.”
Potocic won’t say who the acts will be, just that they’ll all be local and you’ll know some of them. There will be a mix of the established and the new. The Ticats will be footing the bill for the show.
The games will, of course, require tickets. The concert will be free on the paved portion of the stadium facing the old Scott Park.
Put it all together and you end up with a ton of potential. Grunwald calls it a great opportunity to expose his team to a lot of football fans who might like what they see. Potocic describes it as a chance to do something for the community and to introduce itself to some folks who might not otherwise taste Supercrawl. As for Afinec, he says it’s a chance to grow the game.
But he also uses that word celebration.
If it’s done well — and if things really fall into place with a couple wins by the hometown teams — it almost certainly will be that. After which, he and the rest of the partners in this project may want to consider adding yet another word to the description.