Both the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and representatives from the City of Hamilton say the earliest the city could expect to host a Grey Cup is likely now 2019.
Changes to the Canadian Football League’s process for awarding the championship celebration as well as concerns over the ongoing litigation surrounding Tim Hortons Field – not mention the time required to assemble a quality bid and organize the event – mean the wait will continue for fans who haven’t seen a Grey Cup played in the city since 1996.
With Toronto hosting the event this November and Ottawa on tap for 2017, Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell said the earliest the team could have moved forward was 2018. That’s still a remote possibility but it’s increasingly unlikely: the plans to expand seating capacity of Tim Hortons Field to more than 40,000 – a necessity to host the big game – still haven’t been provided and the stadium continues to be plagued by issues, mostly recently faulty transformers.
“There’s still a significant legal claim against the builder dealing with the delays in delivering the stadium. That’s going to have to be taken care before we’re able to put together a bid with the city,” Mitchell said. “The reality is, with everything that’s going on, 2018 is going to be a tough timeline. Typically, you want to be well into your plans two years in advance.”
Greg Maychak, manager of special projects for the city’s public works department, is preparing a report that will go before city council on Dec. 7. He says the bid is responsibility of the Ticats with the city of Hamilton as a partner.
“The math works out that the earliest [the Ticats] could consider bidding would be 2019, just based on the time it takes to both mount the bid and prepare to host a successful Grey Cup,” Maychak said. “The next steps will be to sit down between the city and the Tiger-Cats to talk about the criteria to bid on a future Grey Cup.”
That criteria has recently changed. After years of awarding the Grey Cup – and its estimated $100 million of economic activity – based on backroom handshake deals or regional preferences, the CFL Board of Governors has put a formal process in place to judge each application on its merits.
“I think the board would love to get the Grey Cup back to Hamilton sooner rather than later. I think theTiger-Cats would love that as well,” Mitchell said. “But I think everyone needs to know that this is a formal and competitive bid process. We’re going to need to bond together to put together a great bid.”
At a recent event in Ottawa to announce that city’s Grey Cup Festival, CFL commissioner Jeffery Orridge outlined some of the details the league is looking for.
“Typically what makes for a successful Grey Cup is a partnership among private and public interests, it’s community-based, it’s a number of movers and shakers and influencers, people who are avid supporters of the CFL,” Orridge said. “That’s what makes it all come together because they Grey Cup is so big and so important, it takes a village to make it work.”
Mitchell says he believes the league and the board want to see a Grey Cup in Hamilton, particularly given the new stadium, the investment put forward in the team by owner Bob Young and the fact that Ticat fans have done without for so long. But they need to get it right.
“When the Grey Cup comes to Hamilton, we want it to be an absolute success, a home run event that shows how great a host the city can be,” he said.