By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are eyeing a financially winning season in 2014 after announcing a $5 million investment into the $145.7-million Tim Hortons Field.
But problems could still persist for the football club if the stadium will be ready for the Tiger-Cats home game scheduled for July 26 against the expansion Ottawa club.
Infrastructure Ontario recently warned the Tiger-Cats and the City of Hamilton to draw up contingency plans in case the stadium isn’t ready for the club’s home opener. Tiger-Cat officials will be attending a stadium update April 29 at city hall. A December ice storm delayed construction on the stadium for about two weeks, and there have also been contract problems.
“I’m very positive, (and) optimistic we’ll be ready,” said Glenn Gibson, chief operating officer for the Tiger-Cats.
And while the club does have alternative plans just in case the stadium won’t be operational in time, Gibson wanted to wait until after the meeting to determine if those plans will be needed.
“I think before we start talking about (alternative sites), we wanted to get a more definitive prognosis,” he said. “Why make a story when there is no story?”
Also facing the Tiger-Cats is a potential players strike. Negotiations are continuing between the CFL players’ association and the league. Gibson says the negotiations from what he has been hearing are “positive”.
“We don’t want labour problems, but I think that’s all in the hands of the commissioner and the league,” said Gibson.
Meanwhile, the Tiger-Cats held a lavish ceremony April 22 at the Sheraton Hotel, complete with Tiger-Cat cheerleaders, season ticket holders, Angelo Mosca, and the club’s new caterer Levy Restaurants showcasing its Pigskin Pete pretzels, and gourmet sliders and hot dogs, to announce its $5 million investment in the stadium.
The capital funds will be going into improved technology, including WiFi, entertainment, customer service, constructing a Legacy Wall to honour the people who have participated in launching the club in the new stadium, the first time this has been done since 1928 when Civic Stadium was constructed.
In addition, a larger, more active scoreboard will be unveiled for the stadium, while the football players will benefit from the investment which will included improved locker rooms, medical and therapeutic programs, and state-of-the-art weight room, said Bob Young, the club’s owner.
“It is the future of this organization,” said Young.
The Tiger-Cats and the city recently formalized a new 20-year agreement for the club to use the stadium. One requirement is the Tiger-Cats need to invest $30 million during the length of the contract.
Gibson also announced the club will honour former Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli, who represented the area where the stadium is located, on the Legacy Wall. A location for the wall has yet to be identified, said Gibson.
“We are recreating a feeling we used to have,” said Gibson, who applauded Hamilton’s support for the club last year when the team when to the Grey Cup inRegina. “This is a tremendous opportunity to thank our fans.”
Gibson expects the club to return a profit this season after experiencing “incredible” ticket sales. He said the club has 15,000 season tickets, less than 1,000 from reaching its 16,000-seat goal.
And with the club level sold out, the 30 private suits gone, and the patio areas on the upper and lower areas, and lounge area located in the south end zone sold out, plus the increase in corporate sponsorships, Gibson says the Tiger-Cats will have a sustainable financial model the club can lay the foundation on for years.
“We have a good shot at profitability this year,” said Gibson. “We had 1,000 premier seats and 30 suits we didn’t have before.”
Club officials say good seats are still available at the 22,500-seat facility, and at prices that are affordable. Gibson said ticket prices have remained fixed at 2012 levels. During special events the stadium can expand to 40,000 seats.
The Tiger-Cats also introduced the Chicago-based Levy Restaurants as the stadium’s caterer. The company has served food in such venues as the Barclay’s Centre in Brooklyn, American Airlines Arena inMiami, FedEx Field in Washington,D.C., and Ford Field inDetroit. Gibson said the team has already received a request from a couple who want to hold their wedding at the stadium.
In an effort to address the parking problems around the stadium, the Tiger-Cats have partnered withHamilton’s school boards, the city and Arcelor Mittal to open up their space on game days for parking. It will mean, said Gibson, an additional 4,000 parking spots will be available. It is unknown how much those spaces will cost, but any revenues raised, the school boards and Arcelor Mittal will be donating them to local charitable organizations. Gibson said the new parking areas are within a 12-minute walk to the stadium, located on Balsam Street.
In 2015, the stadium will play host to the Pan Am Games for the entire soccer competition. It will feature 16 teams, both men’s and women’s, over 16 days, with the gold medal games scheduled for July 25 and 26. To test the stadium’s hosting abilities, Hamilton will have the Ontario University Athletic men’s and women’s soccer championships beginning Oct. 30.