City of Hamilton putting together ‘business case’ for Grey Cup, looking into extra seating

The city will put together a “business case” outlining how it can help the Hamilton Tiger-Cats host a Grey Cup championship football event in 2020 or 2021.

Councillors signed off Wednesday on a city recommendation to study possible costs and opportunities associated with bringing a Grey Cup game to Hamilton for the first time since 1996.

The report was light on details, but noted multi-day Grey Cup events have had an estimated $80-million-plus economic impact in other cities in recent years.

Meanwhile,  staff confirmed the city will need to hire architects and engineers to come up with a plan to expand seating in Tim Hortons Field to squeeze in anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 extra fans. They will also report back to council on potential municipal costs related to parties, parking, policing and transit.

Rob Gatto, manager of sports and entertainment facilities, told Hamilton’s general issues committee Dec. 12 the city will need to conduct an architectural and structural assessment of the 24,000-seat stadium to determine if additional temporary seating can be installed for a Grey Cup game. It is a requirement for a Grey Cup game that a stadium accommodate at least 40,000 seats.

Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson said he was surprised to discover the city didn’t already have design plans in place to install the additional seating. There was an expectation that when Hamilton decided to replace Ivor Wynn Stadium with Tim Hortons Field for the 2015 Pan Am Games, it would host a Grey Cup.

“We did see conceptual plans (for the expanded stadium) to go up to 40,000 (seats)” said Ferguson, who helped to oversee the construction of the facility. “Did I dream that?”

But Gatto said the only plans or designs the province or Infrastructure Ontario provided the city were conceptual photos.

“There were no real specs from the CFL,” said Gatto. “There were no stamped plans.”

He said when visiting Ottawa, which hosted the Grey Cup in 2017, the city installed temporary seating at both end zones to accommodate the fans. Any temporary seating for a Grey Cup to be held at Tim Hortons Field would be at the north and south end zones.

Ferguson said one of the reasons the stadium’s forecourt is so large was to accommodate the temporary seating.

“It was to hold the scaffolding,” he said.

Gatto, though, said it is “doable” to install the temporary seating if Hamilton gets the nod to host a Grey Cup.

“That makes me feel better,” said Ferguson.

Hamilton has hosted the Grey Cup 10 times, most recently in 1996 at the former Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Calgary is hosting the 2019 Grey Cup, while Regina, Sask. and Montreal, have indicated interest in hosting the 2020 game.

Hamilton finally settled a number of lawsuits in 2018 over the construction of Tim Hortons with the Tiger-Cats, Infrastructure Ontario and the consortium that build the $145-million stadium. Hamilton contributed $40 million to the project.

The facility was scheduled to be completed on June 30, 2014, but was not delivered to the city until almost a year later. And even after the city took control of the facility there were continuing deficiencies with the stadium, including flooding, a falling speaker, various mechanical system breakdowns, lighting and floor drains.

The Tiger-Cats are interested in hosting a Grey Cup either in 2020 or 2021. The Canadian Football League changed how they awarded the hosting duties. Instead of rotating where the championship game is held, potential municipalities are now required to bid on the game.

A municipal contribution could include providing direct investment, infrastructure improvements, establish fan and community program events, marketing and promotion.

The CFL has said hosting a Grey Cup injects up to $120 million into the local municipal economy. The big game is only one part of what is a weeklong event that includes a festival kickoff, multiday fan experience, a Grey Cup concert series, a CFL Alumni Legends luncheon, a Grey Cup street festival and a gala dinner.

– Hamilton Spectator, Stoney Creek News