Hall of Fame plans for Tim Hortons Field set to be finalized

The City of Hamilton has a game-winning plan for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Now all they have to do is execute it.

Rom D’Angelo, the city’s facility and capital programs director, said the CFL and Hamilton are poised to sign agreements that will officially kick-off the renovation project at Tim Hortons Field for the Hall of Fame display. City officials want to have the display completed by the 2016 Hall of Fame Game in September, said D’Angelo.

“The city’s excited to have the (Hall of Fame) at Tim Hortons Field,” said D’Angelo. “There are synergies there to have it at the facility. It complements the stadium.”

Last summer the CFL and the City of Hamilton agreed to relocate the Hall of Fame from its location beside city hall to Tim Hortons Field. The agreement included the city and CFL each contributing $250,000, to construct the display, with the CFL overseeing the hall of fame and museum artifacts, while the city would continue to store football memorabilia at the former location until 2025. Also included in the agreement was Hamilton would host the Hall of Fame game until 2025, and the city would stop subsidizing the facility at a cost of about $130,000 annually through free rent and utilities. In 2014 the hall of fame needed a $100,000 bailout from the city to keep it operating.

Hamilton will also contribute about $25,000 in operating costs.

The Hall of Fame, which closed at the end of July 2015, was seeing a decline in visitors with about 2,000 showing up in 2014. CFL officials said in an earlier interview that they hope by having the facility at Tim Hortons Field will add to fans’ football experience while also encouraging them to seek out the hall of fame and the stories it tells.

D’Angelo said a design has been created to have a special “Legend’s Row” that showcases all the busts of the Canadian Football League’s all-time great players on either side at the north-west area of the stadium. D’Angelo described the hall of fame showcase as an “open-air pavilion” that would allow people to walk among the busts and other artifacts.

In addition, at the guest services location of Tim Hortons Field, there will be an area commemorating the Grey Cup, including its history. A Grey Cup will greet visitors to the area, but D’Angelo didn’t know if it will be the “original” trophy.

D’Angelo said the CFL has agreed to the design.

Messages to the CFL and the Hall of Fame seeking comment were not returned.

The goal is to complete the renovations and have the pavilion and Grey Cup display ready for the CFL Hall of Fame Game scheduled for September. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are scheduled to host Montreal on Sept. 16.

“It is fitting to have the Grey Cup, and Hall of Fame at Tim Hortons Field,” said D’Angelo. “In 1930 Hamilton hosted the first British Empire Games at the former Ivor Wynne Stadium (where Tim Hortons Field now stands.) “Everybody is excited about this opportunity.”

Hamilton was awarded the hall of fame in 1963 after a lobbying effort by former mayor Lloyd Jackson. The hall had been at its Jackson Street location since 1972.

The hall’s former location is currently being studied by city staff and City Manager Chris Murray to host a “city lab” where the city and Hamilton’s education institutions – McMaster University, Redeemer University and Mohawk College – would study “innovative” ideas for the city.