Ivor Wynne Stadium was originally known as the Civic Stadium. The original facilities were built for the British Empire Games, Canada's first major international athletic event, held in Hamilton from August 16 to 23, 1930.
In 1959, the present south grandstand was constructed with a seating capacity of approximately 15,000. New washroom and concession facilites and new Tiger-Cat headquarters were also added in time for the Royal Visit on July 2, 1959.
On December 9, 1970, the Parks Board voted to rename the former Civic Stadium as Ivor Wynne Stadium to honour Ivor Wynne for his contributions to the Parks Board, McMaster University, and the local and national sports scenes. Renovations took place the following year and included the addition of the north stands and the first Astro Turf playing surface in Canada. The installation of the turf was made possible by the fundraising of the Hamilton Junior Chamber of Commerce.
In 1986, a new press box was installed, as well as accessible seating and ticket booths. The site was officially named again on February 9, 1988. Ivor Wynne Stadium will be the site of the 1996 Grey Cup.
November 19, 1996 - PAUL WILSON, Southam Newspapers
In this town, where cheerleaders wear buttons that say Argos Suck, it's always hard not to think of Toronto.
There, at the foot of the world's tallest freestanding structure, they play football inside an expensive, mysterious-looking white bubble that comes into view as you approach on the Gardiner.
Here they play ball in an old-time stadium that's big on history, small on mystery. What you see is what you get, as you motor up on Cannon Street East.
Welcome to Ivor Wynne. Where you can reach out and actually touch a Ticat. Where the black is the painted steel pillars and the gold, even on a cold day, is lager in clear plastic cups.
The place looks pretty right now. They've touched up the trim. Vulkem'ed the concrete. Blasted the litter with blowers that roar loud as a Labour Day crowd.
Long before the grass went plastic, they started playing sports here. The city expropriated 13 acres in 1913. Farmer J.J. Scott wanted $18,500 an acre. Hamilton knocked that down to $6,835.
By 1921, the land was home to two soccer fields, a baseball field, a cricket pitch, bowling green and children's playground.
In the summer of 1930, it was the British Empire Games. And 20 years after that, the Hamilton Tigers and Wildcats combined and played on the grounds.
But it must be said that this stadium was once the shame of North America.
It was 30 years ago, the fall of 1966. There was a CFL-TV network that broadcast games on a one-week delay basis to Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and 40 other cities across the States.
A couple of games from Hamilton had gone out over the network - the first Argo game and a Labour Day event against Ottawa.
But then Jake Gaudaur, head of the league's television committee, brought bad news:
"We have been asked to cancel all games from Hamilton, including the planned colour telecast of our Thanksgiving Day game, because they want shots of better-looking stadia, or as they put it, something which makes the game look 'big time'."
Apparently it was a couple of metal bleacher stands and the old concrete north stand, with its wooden press boxes from another era, that really shouted "bush league" to the Americans.
Hamilton licked its wounds and resolved to build something better. And in 1971, after a $2-million renovation, Hamilton was ashamed no more.
It had the first AstroTurf installation in Canada. And the number of seats climbed past 34,000, which was biggest in the league.
The improved stadium got a new name. Ivor Wynne, former chairman of the parks board, had died late in 1970, age 51.
There had been talk back then of building a new stadium on city-owned land on the West Mountain.
But they decided to keep playing ball in the heart of the east end. Right outside Ivor Wynne, you have streets like Melrose, with solid homes, tall trees and lawns full of cars on game day.
From here, if the Cats are winning, you'll hear the crowd. If the home team's getting mauled, you'll only hear the announcer.
Or Aretha singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
No one lives closer to Ivor Wynne than Joe Syty. He moved into the house that sides onto Beechwood Avenue in 1968.
The back of those old stands, the ones the Americans sneered at, were a half-dozen paces from his well-tended lawn.
But the very next year the city announced plans for the new stands. They would rise twice as high, six storeys into the air.
And ever since, Joe's gone without his afternoon sun. He was out picking Ivor Wynne litter from his sidewalk the other day.
He said that had he known that structure was coming, he would not have bought the house.
But Joe does go to the games.
Inside Ivor Wynne, they say every seat's a good one. A lot of those seats are hard wooden benches, but you can see the game.
And if it's a bad match and you're sitting high enough - say up in Row V, up against the press box, you can just lean back and look out over Hamilton. The steel plants, with fire and smoke. The escarpment beyond. The last decade or so has been tough for the Cats.
But if you think they'll just fade away, you should talk to Oliver Zlatanovski.
He's with Cleanol, which got the job of removing the logos on display on the Ivor Wynne turf all season long. They had to be replaced with the logos of the companies that pay the big bucks for the Grey Cup bang.
Oliver knew the removal job was always easy at the Skydome.
There, they just paint the logos in latex. Around Ivor Wynne, they put them on tough, in oil paint.
And when Cleanol showed up with six trucks and equipment that normally cleans carpets, the job did not go well.
That staff of six was all day getting rid of two modest-sized logos.
So out-of-town had to be rushed in, the big trucks of Metro Mobile Wash.
And on a day not long ago, those men with their high-pressure wands were still having a very hard time in the end zone to the west.
A giant tiger - the pride of Hamilton, even though there will be no Cup this year - would not be erased easily.
Two men in rubber blasted away. The tiger fought back. It would take the pair all day to bring the beast down.
When you see that end zone on Grey Cup day, it will say Dodge Trucks.
But come spring, the big cat comes back to old Ivor Wynne.
- Hamilton Spectator
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
September 4, 2006 - Today’s Ivor Wynne Stadium might look like something resembling a professional football stadium, but such was not always the case.
The stadium was built in 1930, just a 2000 seat facility erected for the British Empire Games. In 1950 the Hamilton Tiger Cats took up permanent residence in the stadium, and by the late 50s new bleachers were added to the east side of the stadium to increase capacity. Nonetheless, the venue still boasted a shabby appearance, so much so that American TV networks refused to air games from Hamilton, and even the traditional Argos-TiCats Labour Day Classic couldn’t get a decent airing.
So the city and the team engaged in yet another round of upgrades and renovations, bringing seating capacity up to 30,000 seats; in the 90s new corporate boxes were added, upgraded player facilities, upgraded sound system, all in time for the city to host the 1996 Grey Cup. In 2004, the coup de grace was added to the stadium – the largest outdoor video board in Canada and the fifth largest in North America. The TigerVision board is clearly the jewel of the stadium.
Today’s Ivor Wynne Stadium is your quintessential neighborhood sporting venue. Nestled among residential streets, a block away from the Barton Street commercial district, and about a mile south of downtown, parking can be found wherever space can be had – on the street, in vacant lots, on residents’ front lawns. The narrow streets around the stadium are bustling with fans before the game, mixed in with street vendors and musical entertainers.
The seating bowl here is mostly bench seating, save for chairbacks on the lower sidelines. On the west side is the pressbox and suite tower, while the north end zone below the TigerVision board are canopied corporate party tents. For an older venue, concessions here aren’t too bad, offering such specialty items as Philly cheesesteaks, a barbecue stand, and of course Canada’s mainstay “Pizza Pizza”.
The game we attended was the “Labour Day Classic” featuring the Ti-Cats vs their arch rival Toronto Argonauts and the building was jam packed for the occasion. For many Canadians, this represents the best football weekend of the year. Well, maybe only after the Grey Cup or college football Vanier Cup. On Labour Day age old rivalries play themselves out in packed stadiums and national television audiences.
Adding to this day was the quest by Toronto Argonauts quarterback Damon Allen to become the most prolific passer in professional football history. He needed 165 passing yards to eclipse the record of 70,553 yards held by Warren Moon. Allen did break the record in the second quarter, and the game was stopped so CFL Commissioner Tom Wright could commemorate the moment. The fans for both teams gave Allen a well deserved prolonged ovation.
Ivor Wynne Stadium has undergone many changes over the years, but the stadium has remained true to the original vision of an outdoor stadium. In fact, it is one of the few stadiums of its kind in North America and is a significant historical and cultural landmark of Hamilton-Wentworth.
HAMILTON TEAM SETS RULES IN STADIUM BID
February 26, 2009
Copyright 2009 MediaVentures
Hamilton, Ontario - Build a new stadium with lots of financial help or go it alone with Ivor
Wynne: Those are the two options facing the city, according to Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Scott Mitchell.
The team president said, while the Cats are willing to contribute "millions to tens of millions of dollars" along with other private partners toward a new multi-use facility for the 2015 Pan Am
Games that would then be home to the football team, the team is no longer willing to make
financial contributions to maintaining the existing Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Mitchell says the team has already paid $7 million in costs related to the stadium in recent
years and isn't prepared to keep spending on the 79-year-old facility that has "limited economic
spinoff" for the club.
"We put that money in on the basis of a long-term solution becoming available with the new
stadium but, if the city did choose to maintain Ivor Wynne stadium, it would still keep us viable to some extent. But we wouldn't be interested in participating in any additional costs at Ivor Wynne," Mitchell said.
His comments come a day after a report by David Adames on the Pan Am Games bid raised the
possibility not building a new stadium could cost Hamilton its only professional sports franchise.
The report states C$18 million to C$20 million will be required over the next five to 10 years
just to maintain the stadium and a major renovation is estimated to cost about C$94 million.
"There is also risk the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the main tenant at Ivor Wynne and potential
partner in a new stadium, may leave Hamilton should a new stadium not be built," he wrote.
Mitchell said he spoke to Adames but never told him specifically the Cats would leave without
a new stadium.
Nonetheless, Mitchell says the situation needs to be dealt with.
"Either there has to be a new facility in Hamilton or there has to be a major renovation to Ivor
Wynne Stadium. If the city doesn't want to do either, obviously we'd have to look at other places to play," he said.
Mitchell said the team doesn't want to appear to be "putting a gun to the city's head," but
thinks the decision is straightforward. (Hamilton Spectator)
HAMILTON OPTS FOR NEW CONSTRUCTION OVER RENOVATION
September 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Hamilton, Ontario - Instead of renovating the home of the Hamilton Tiger Cats and the 2015
Pan American Games venue for soccer, the stadium will be completely rebuilt, the Canadian Press reports.
The original plan involved replacing the south stand and renovating the north stand to bring it up to code. But city officials and the Tiger Cats approached the Pan Am group about rebuilding the stadium and after examination it was found that the plan could be completed under the previously agreed upon budget.
"Sometimes the cost of renovating is more than the cost of taking the house down and rebuilding," chief executive officer of the organizing committee for the Pan Am games Ian Troop told the news service. "You never know what you get into when you start renovating. That was part of the thinking that led us, as we looked at our costs, to say we think that the north stand can be included within the same budget.
"Hamilton's getting a better, a more complete facility for the money we've talked about."
The design of the stadium hasn't been established yet. Builders will compete for the chance to design and build the facility. The capacity of the new stadium will be reduced with the exact number still not released yet.
Last January the Ontario government stepped in with about C$22.5 million to cover a funding gap in the C$152 million project. Hamilton's share is about C$54 million but Troop said more money could come into the project when the private sector gets involved.
"We haven't yet gone to market. So we haven't yet got the competitive market place helping us either so we'll see if we can do even better when we go to market," Troop said.
Troop said as far as he knew the main reason for the decision to rebuild was to provide spectators with a better game experience.
"Our understanding is that there was a desire to make sure that everybody in the stadium had the same level of experience and there was a concern that a reconditioned north stand wouldn't provide the same kind of experience as a rebuilt south stand," Troop said.
The news service said the challenge for all the parties involved is to get the stadium ready as soon as possible for CFL action and so test events can take place in preparation for the Pan Am Games.
The next deadline for Troop is to get the request for proposal submitted to Infrastructure Ontario by Sept. 15. If all goes to plan the construction contract would be awarded next summer and work would start after the Tiger Cats finish the 2012 CFL season. By mid 2014 Troop wants the stadium ready to run test events for the Pan Am games and the Tiger Cats would start the season in there new home.