Ron Joyce Stadium is becoming the Hamilton Tiger-Cats home away from home.
After the City of Hamilton and Tiger-Cats organization announced that the new Tim Hortons Field will not be ready in time for the July 26 and July 31 home games, McMaster has been tapped as the temporary home for CFL football in Hamilton, but only has room in the stands for 6,000 of the 22,000 tickets sold.
“The Tiger-Cats approached us. We had a pre-season game on campus in June and that went very well in terms of planning, coordination, traffic and crowd management. Shortly thereafter, about a week or ten days ago, the team approached the university and we had a conversation about hosting a July game here on campus,” said Gord Arbeau, Director of Public & Community Relations at McMaster.
There will not be grandstands rolled in to accommodate extra spectators, due to cost. “The basis of that conversation was always about renting the stadium as is, so no expansion of seats,” said Arbeau. “Two years ago, the plan that [the Tiger-Cats] brought to us was to add an extra 15-20,000 seats to the stadium which would mean closing off parts of campus and roadways. We would have to build seating over Mitchell Crescent and the roadway. That would impact the ability to get to student residences, and would have been in place for half the academic year – from June right through to the end of November.”
Students may have access to alcohol at the games, but will not be able to drink in the stands. “The seats of the stadium are not licensed, so alcohol is not allowed to be sold, or consumed in the stands. The area at the north end of the field is a licensed area for a beer garden, so that will be a part of the plan,” said Arbeau.
Scott Mitchell, CEO of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, explained the situation on July 7.
“Today’s meeting with Toronto 2015, Infrastructure Ontario, ONSS and the City of Hamilton has made it clear that it would not be possible to safely deliver a game experience that would meet our standards within the current timeframe. As a result, we will now host our first two home games at Ron Joyce Stadium,” said Mitchell.
Tim Hortons Field’s building delays should surprise no one who has followed the stadium saga closely. Infrastructure Ontario – the company responsible for construction – says that a harsh winter and bankruptcy of a contractor are the cause for being behind schedule.
McMaster hosted the 2014 training camp, practices and exhibition games.
There’s a possibility that McMaster hosts the August 16 game too. Infrastructure Ontario gave The Hamilton Spectator a lengthy list of tasks to be completed: field of play installation, exterior building facade work, sprinkler systems installation, all mechanical and electrical work, installation of seats, VIP and box suites, installation of broadcast facilities, installation of railings and elevators throughout public areas.
Mitchell said that the builders “remain adamant” the stadium will be ready for the Labour Day Classic against the Toronto Argonauts, but in the case it is not, McMaster will not be available as a host. “The Labour Day game, we would not be able to host. We have our own game,” said Arbeau.