Team to play at 6,000-seat Ron Joyce Stadium
By Mark Newman and Kevin Werner
The City of Hamilton has confirmed that Tim Hortons Field won't be ready before the end of July, forcing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to play their first two home games at McMaster University's Ron Joyce Stadium.
Gerry Davis, the city's public works manager, said a meeting held in Toronto, July 7 to review the stadium's construction determined it wouldn't be ready for the Tiger-Cats first two home games July 26 against Ottawa and against Winnipegon July 31.
"The contractor and Infrastructure Ontario (said) the stadium will still be under construction," saidDavis. "We are making the call today. The two days we won't have occupancy permit for the games."
Davissaid after the Toronto meeting, he informed councillors about the stadium decision.
He said "all facets" of the construction was behind schedule rather than just one specific area, and it didn't meet the city's occupational permit criteria.
"We want to make sure when we get the occupancy permit it is not a construction site for the public," he said.
Davissaid the contractor will continue to work on the stadium until the end of July. The city, Infrastructure Ontario, the contractor will then decide if the stadium can be open for the games. The next home game for the Tiger-Cats is Aug. 16 againstCalgary.Davis refused to say if the stadium will be ready after July.
"Hopefully it will be positive news," said Davis.
Tiger-Cat CEO Scott Mitchell said in a statement that the contractor emphasized Tim Hortons Field “will be ready no later than Labour Day.
“In the coming weeks we will have greater certainty regarding our Aug. 16 game,” he said.
Gord Arbeau, McMaster University’s director of public and community relations, said the school and Tiger-Cats talked about a possible contingency plan in case Tim Hortons Field wasn’t ready about a week ago. The university found out July 7 their plan needed be used. Arbeau said the agreement with the Tiger-Cats involves only the first two home games and doesn’t include games scheduled in August.
“We have been talking to (the team) for the past week or so,” said Arbeau. “We had a successful pre-season game (in June). Based on that we had some discussions.”
Arbeau said McMaster will be ready to accommodate the estimated 6,000 Tiger-Cat fans, and any traffic and security issues that comes with hosting a sporting crowd. McMaster University security will be present during the game, with support from Hamilton Police Service.
“We are confident we will be able to manage it,” said Arbeau. “We are accustomed to handling 5,000 to 6,000 people.”
One difference while watching the Tiger-Cats at Ron Joyce Stadium instead of Tim Hortons Field is alcohol will not be sold to fans in their seats. Arbeau said the stadium is not licensed. Instead, a beer garden will be set up near the stadium, and it will be patrolled, he said.
Davis said there will be no additional costs to Hamilton taxpayers for the delay on the $145-million stadium. But Ontario Sports Solutions - the consortium building the stadium - is contractually obligated to pay the Tiger-Cats $1 million for every home game missed.
The $1 million was identified in a lease agreement between the city and the team last February. The Tiger-Cats are also entitled to recover all "provable damages resulting from delays and looks to the city to pursue those damages" through its agreement.
The 24,000-seat stadium had been scheduled to be completed by June 30. In early February Infrastructure Ontario warned councillors and the Tiger-Cats to prepare contingency plans in case of the deadline being missed. In April the contractor promised to meet the July 26 deadline, double-shifting workers, and being on the site six days a week to make up for the estimated six weeks of lost time.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats did play their pre-season games at McMaster University's stadium, which seats about 6,000 people.
"Although we have fallen short of some early games of the 2014 schedule, the eventual opening of this wonderful and historic facility will be well worth the wait," said Mayor Bob Bratina in a statement.
The Tiger-Cats announced Monday evening that this month's games will be played at McMaster. A statement on the team's website states those who purchased tickets for the July games will receive a refund or credit.
It's not clear how the team will distribute tickets for the McMaster games or who will be accommodated first.