The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced on Tuesday that they’d be playing their 2013 home games in Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph.
No matter how much pride we might feel about the McMaster Marauders’ dominant season, we’ll have to mix it with a little shame. Our school could have, and should have, found a way to keep the CFL in Hamilton next year. Instead, the Tabbies will be sharing a field with this season’s Yates Cup runners-up.
McMaster represented the Tiger-Cats’ only hope of staying in Hamilton next season while they wait for the 2014 opening of their new facility, which will replace Ivor Wynne Stadium. The University made the decision in June that it wouldn’t host any games, forcing the franchise to look elsewhere for a temporary place of residence.
This wasn’t about money. The Tiger-Cats were prepared to take on the financial burden.
This wasn’t really about capacity either. Guelph’s stadium can hold 7,500 people and can be expanded to 12,000 to 15,000 seats. Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster comes close, with 5,500 seats that can be expanded to 12,000 (some estimates suggested Ron Joyce could go as high as 17,000). But really, what does a little extra seating matter when your fans are in a different city?
TiCats management hopes that they can fill seats with a mix of diehard fans and a new crop of supporters from Guelph. After all, why should Guelph fans be any less deserving of a CFL team?
Sorry, Guelph, but you are less deserving. Since the Hamilton Tigers and the Hamilton Wildcats joined forces in 1950, Hamiltonians have offered the team all the support they could ask for.
When the Tiger-Cats approached McMaster about playing home games on campus next season, the University needed to back up talk of community engagement by putting its stadium where its mouth was.
But it turned out that McMaster didn’t mean the whole city when it talked about community. When the University made a sudden decision to end discussions with the team after six months of dialogue and shut down the possibility of holding the 10 or 11 Sunday home games on campus, they were looking out for Westdale. The bubble.
Granted, while they might be Hamilton’s team, the Tiger-Cats aren’t Westdale’s team. Their fans of north-east Hamilton – a part of the city where most of the University’s students rarely tread – are blue collar. Pigskin Pete, the team’s unofficial fan-mascot since 1920, would seem out of place anywhere else. (Pete has been represented by four different men, whose primary duties were to don a jersey, and sometimes a fur coat, and lead the iconic “Oskie-Wee-Wee” chant in the stands.)
But even if the Tiger-Cats aren’t Westdale’s team, McMaster needed to assert that it was Hamilton’s university. It didn’t.
So thank you, U of Guelph, for being Hamilton’s university when McMaster could not.