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New Hamilton Tiger-Cats stadium unveiled

In Ian Troop’s mind, Ivor Wynne Stadium has come full circle.

The storied 84-year-old stadium will be demolished in December, giving way in 2014 to a new $145.7-million state-of-the-art facility that will be the new home of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and, in 2015, the host to all 32 men’s and women’s soccer games at the Pan Am Games.

The venue was formally unveiled during a news conference Friday on the turf at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The new facility will be built on a 5.45-hectare parcel of land where Ivor Wynne currently stands. It’s the same ground where then Civic Stadium hosted the 1930 British Empire Games — now known as the Commonwealth Games.

“It’s funny, a number of us mentioned the historical ramifications and relevance of this facility,” said Troop, the chief executive officer of the Pam Am Games organizing committee. “I think there are spirits that live in this place.

“It’s a very appropriate place to be able to rejuvenate this facility,” he added.

Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina agreed.

“These are sacred grounds of Hamilton sport,” he said.

The new stadium — which will be renamed Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium for the Games — will feature two tiers of seats on both sides of the field with an initial seating capacity of 22,500. But that could expand to 40,000 seats for major events like the Grey Cup. It will meet all the technical requirements of both the CFL and FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

The new field will shift 90 degrees to a north-south axis from the east-west format at the current Ivor Wynne. The move is designed to minimize the effect of the sun on athletes and reduce wind inside the facility.

The new facility will have a seating capacity of roughly 24,000 for Ticats home games and will also feature 700 club seats located between the 25-yard lines, 400 group sales suites seats, 30 VIP suites, six elevators, larger seats, updated press and broadcasting facilities and concession stands on all levels.

It will be able to host professional and amateur sports competitions as well as cultural events. There will also be a public plaza in the south end.

“This is a neighbourhood stadium that’s going to rise up from this very historic area to give it another 80 years of longevity,” said Troop.

Ticats owner Bob Young said the new stadium will also generate more revenue that could go back into helping further modify the facility.

“With more revenue you can do more things,” he said. “The city maintains Ivor Wynne Stadium reasonably well but it’s all the money they have available to them.

“With the money we can make in the new stadium it’s going to be interesting to see where, between ourselves and the city, we eventually take this stadium. We’re thrilled and very grateful at the way it has turned out.”

With the new stadium under construction next season, the Ticats will have to find a new venue or venues for next year’s home games. Young expects to announce the club’s 2013 plans at the end of this season.

The federal government is footing the majority of the $145.7-million bill, providing $69.3 million. The city of Hamilton will pay $54.1 million with the province chipping in the remaining $22.3 million.

Friday’s unveiling capped a long and sometimes contentious path towards the new facility. There were countless debates over the location and many voiced concerns about potential costs. But Ticats president Scott Mitchell said the end result made the process well worth it.

“I think city council did a great job,” he said. “They’ve got a responsibility to taxpayers in this city to make sure the money is being spent responsibly. It has turned our extremely well for everybody.”

The 24,000-seat capacity for football is roughly 5,900 less than the current Ivor Wynne. But CFL commissioner Mark Cohon isn’t concerned.

“I think that intimate, smaller stadium creates a great environment for CFL football,” he said. “By realigning the stadium and creating a really intimate environment, essentially it’s a stadium for not just the next generation but the generation after that.”

Mitchell said the Ticats plan to approach the city soon to begin the process of applying to host a future Grey Cup. The CFL will stage its championship game in Regina next year but nothing has been announced past that.

“We’re excited about the possibility of Grey Cup and clearly this facility delivers that possibility,” he said.

Cohon said he can see Hamilton hosting a Grey Cup in its new stadium but couldn’t say when that might happen.

“Obviously they built this stadium so it could accommodate a Grey Cup and that’s our goal,” he said. “We don’t have a date. We’ll take the lead from the team and the city when they want to get together and come forward with a plan.”

Hamilton last hosted the Grey Cup in 1996.