The City of Hamilton will not partner with Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a Grey Cup bid until the lawsuits surrounding the construction of Tim Hortons Field have been resolved.
“We can’t do any business with them when there’s litigation outstanding,” city councillor Sam Merulla said Friday.
The Calgary Stampeders and the Edmonton Eskimos are the only two teams bidding for the right to host the 2018 Grey Cup game. Calgary last hosted the league’s championship showcase in 2009 while the game was played in Edmonton the following year. The 2017 Grey Cup game is set to be hosted in Ottawa, an event that coincide with country’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Hamilton, meanwhile, hasn’t hosted a Grey Cup since 1996. But Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell says the team can’t move forward with a bid without the support of city council.
“For the Grey Cup to be successful, there has to be a partnership between the team and the city,” Mitchell said.
The competition between the two Alberta cities is the first under the CFL’s revamped selection process. 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.
When the City of Hamilton opened its publicly-funded $145 million stadium in 2015, the hope was that the city would be in position to host multiple Grey Cups in a short period of time, giving both the city and the team a significant economic boost.
But the stadium, which was delivered more than a year behind schedule, has been by beset by construction problems and is the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by the province, city and the CFL team.
There have been reports that a settlement between the parties could be imminent – something that Merulla reiterated on Friday – but Mitchell says significant issues remain.
“The reality is that there hasn’t been any progression in the litigation,” he said.
Nonetheless, Mitchell remains hopeful that the team and the city will be in position to make a push for the game by this time next year.
“Our focus is on 2019, which is an exciting year because it coincides with the 150 anniversary of Hamilton Tiger-Cats franchise,” Mitchell said. “We would be thrilled to bid and ultimately host the Grey Cup that year.”
Although the current Hamilton Tiger-Cats were officially founded in 1950, the franchise’s origins trace back to 1869 when Hamilton Football Club was formed. They played their first game in December of that year and became the Tigers in 1873.
“I think that’s a great idea. I really support it,” Merulla said. “And it ties in nicely to the challenges we’re facing with litigation. It should be resolved well before then.”
– with files from Steve Milton