We are overlooking something special about Ivor Wynne Stadium being in the centre of Hamilton's downtown district.
By Larry Pattison
Published July 07, 2010
...loves outdoor football and never wants to go back"
-- Stargazer_Girl, a CFL devotee from B.C.
I think it's safe to say that an outdoor stadium will be built in Hamilton, but what caught my eye within the above quote was the fan's perception of the new/old/temporary B.C. stadium as the fans in Vancouver enjoyed their first outdoor home CFL game in 28 years.
A new stadium: it's a leading debate in Hamilton these days as we find ourselves in the late stages of the design and location selection for a new venue for the 2015 Pan Am Games, a site which is also planned to be the future home of our Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
The opening quote is an example of why the fans' input is very important when it comes to major decisions that could have a significant impact on the future of a city, or in this case, a football franchise.
What scares me the most is that people who know little about football, people with a million other issues to resolve significantly more important than a sports franchise, are set to make these decisions for us.
Perhaps some of us (myself included) don't know a lot about the business side of development, the politics or demographics, but if you look at what 50 years of fighting the build of the Red Hill Valley Expressway inspired in that final design, we can be reminded of the good that can come from the fans/citizens, environmentalists, and even the arts community having a say on the future development plans aimed to grow this city for the future.
With the indecision surrounding the location of Hamilton's proposed stadium, the future of our city and our football team are at risk because of a location and physical design focused on one series of events. Our site will play a small part in the overall picture of the 2015 Pan Am games that will span one or two weeks, and then we may be left to sit amongst the stands and forever see a Pan Am vision instead of a football vision - the future of our city vision.
The talks related to the stadium location have mostly focused on a waterfront site in Hamilton's West Harbour, with other lands such as Confederation Park (on Lake Ontario), and the airport (Mount Hope, Ontario), and most recently the East Mountain site at Stone Church and Mud Street.
There is, however, one spot that has not been considered.
For 60 years, a little community in Hamilton's east end has enjoyed having Ivor Wynne Stadium and the Tiger-Cats as neighbours. Perhaps a few didn't realize the stadium might get a little loud at times, but for most, the energy that emanates through the stands and into the east end air is what they love most about their community.
Ivor Wynne Stadium, the current home of Hamilton's beloved Tiger-Cats, has a storied past in itself, but what I think is extraordinary about places like this is the history that lives in the minds and hearts of those who have spent time within its walls.
Here is a quick summary of what Ivor Wynne Stadium means to me, from the games of my early childhood to sharing this very special place with my own children.
History: it's something we embrace and hold onto. We all have one. We have all been a part of it. Our ancestors have lived it. We try to preserve it where we can without getting in the way of positive change where change is necessary. But what constitutes the need to let go of history? When must we realize that history has run its course? That we must take a moment to reflect on what it has meant to us (generations of us), and let go of it and look into the future?
Perhaps we are ready for an emotional goodbye to Ivor Wynne. For a tribute with music, images, videos, fans, and players and coaches past a present, all reflecting on the history of this beautiful east end stadium. Perhaps we are ready for one final party. To take home a piece of history as IWS is taken down piece by piece.
For now, though, let's put a hold on the touching, teary-eyed farewell and envision the possibilities. What if that tribute was how we celebrated the rebirth of a revitalized stadium where it stands, rather than the destruction? What if we forego all the tears and the drama, and extend that history?
Let the past continue to be a part of us, so the players can remember what being a Tiger-Cat stands for, and so people are not just paying for a ticket to see a football game but are paying to be a part of history. Where even something as small as a ticket stub is in itself preserving a piece of that past.
I grew up on the east mountain, but I have lived in the general area surrounding Ivor Wynne Stadium for almost ten years now. I have made many new and lasting friendships, and have fond memories of the time I have spent below the mount. There is so much character in These mature neighbourhoods from the older style homes, the deep-rooted trees, the animal life, the closeness of the houses and more people sitting on their front porches, that all combine to serve as a recipe for a close, well grounded community.
I believe the fact that the current historical site is nestled amongst the community, is what makes Ivor Wynne Stadium so unique amongst not only the CFL community, but the football community as a whole. This is what we could market to the Pan AM Games committee, to the CFL, and to potential visitors to this city. We promote how Ivor Wynne is a stadium amongst the community, and that the Tiger-Cats truly are our neighbours.
Let's step away from building a waterfront carrot to showcase on television. What does our stadium mean to our city? How does it give back? How does it compliment the area for which it calls home? That is the dream we should be selling the world, when sharing our vision with them.
Let our current stadium live on as a true 'community' venue.
Market the stadium for how it is different, and it how it has and continues to, build and support this community from High School's using it as their home field, to Secondary School playoff and championship games being played there.
I know many are opposed to the east end as a possible location to either rebuild or build a new venue for the Pan Am Games and the Tiger-Cats, but look at the current location. Cannon St, Barton St, Burlington St, Main St, King St, Sherman Ave, Gage Ave - all major throughways that lead downtown and to the 403/QEW. All roads are within a reasonable distance to Ivor Wynne.
Outside of accessibility, how great is the surrounding stadium experience as well, from parking on peoples lawns to the way the locals dress up their houses for the football season. I think IWS offers a game day experience like not other, and I believe we gain much more from this process by utilizing that originality that exists in this city in general, than focusing so much on what others do or say we should do.
This past New Years, I drove eight hours to Boston, Massachusetts to watch a hockey game at Fenway Park. It had been a longstanding dream of mine to see the historical stadium as we slowly see historical landmarks like Yankee Stadium and the Montreal Forum decommissioned and, in many cases, brought to the ground.
Ask the owners of Fenway and the Red Sox why they have chosen to continue to rebuild and upgrade the current site, instead of going the route that many have chosen which is tear down the old, and build a big, fancy new one.
Sometimes we need to create a new history. Perhaps, there comes a time to put history in the past and build a new legacy. Change is good, but if we can preserve history, if there is a way to incorporate that history into our future, I believe it is something we owe 'it'.
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.
-- from Ticats.ca (History of Ivor Wynne)
I look at the above quote, and I cannot help but wonder why the current location is not on the list of possible locations for a new/rebuilt stadium if this is truly how we feel towards Ivor Wynne Stadium? Is there is a way to use adjacent lands to preserve football in the Balsam community? What's happening with Scott Park? Forget 'Pan Am Field' on the waterfront for a moment. What about 'Balsam Stadium' at Balsam Park?
Ivor Wynne Stadium is the site of the largest outdoor video board in the country ... the fifth largest outdoor board in North America.
I think the above quote exhibits how the revitalization of Ivor Wynne, before we won the Pan Am games bid, was going in the right direction. Why can we not continue down that path, perhaps utilizing money from the games bid to prepare the building or the adjacent site, for 2015?
The individuality of stadiums that have a deep-seeded history in their community what truly makes a stadium special and more than just a building. Places like Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field in Chicago, and yes, even Hamilton's own Ivor Wynne Stadium, are examples of why many people love certain sports teams: for the history rather than or just as much as, the franchise itself.
Take away the Green Monster at Fenway, the Ivy at Wrigley Field, being able to reach out and touch a player at Ivor Wynne, and you take a lot away from the game-day experience. Move the Red Sox out of the Fenway neighbourhood or the Tiger-Cats to Mississauga, and suddenly they are just a sports team. The players come and go, but a stadium can continue to be the tie that bonds.
How many City Councillors and local businessmen involved in this project are dedicated, passionate, season ticket holders. Really? Ask yourself are you really fit to make the final call on such an important decision for this city without the input from it?
Let the people who know this game, who love this game, have a major influence on this substantial decision for our city.
Have a look at what the fans have to say on the Tiger-Cats forum. If anyone knows what works, it is the fans that have been going to games for generations. Many of them travel around Canada to attend games, including those that have been to dozens of Grey Cups. These people have a broader vision of what is special about the eight individual stadium experiences across this country.
I would like to see Hamilton stop trying to do what everyone else is doing with a television-driven waterfront design. Stop the 'fix downtown' focus, and think about the rest of the community that's being forgotten. Don't forget, you have to get to the stadium. What about the roads to it?
There is something special about Ivor Wynne Stadium being in the centre of Hamilton's downtown district that has drawn me to it since childhood. Even when the team itself was going through bad times, I still felt the desire to sit among the stands of Ivor Wynne. I think we are overlooking this, or not looking at ways we could make this current site work if we put our heads together.
The waterfront has poor accessibility, the airport is out of the way, Confederation Park and the airport both eliminate any walk-up traffic. The Waterfront still has potential for a 'community' feel, but none of the other sites do. None though, truly offer what the current site does: history.
We don't need to sell why the stadium should remain at the east end site, but rather why it shouldn't continue to exist where it currently stands.
Is the reason the east end hasn't been a consideration because of the 'area'? If this is true, that is not an acceptable reason at all. The new stadium is meant to clean up the harbour, while the east end is already being cleaned up with a revitalized Ottawa Street shopping district and a new Centre (mall), not to mention existing attractions like the very beautiful Gage Park. Let's continue that east end re-birth
The Balsam neighbourhood has had Ivor Wynne and the Tiger-Cats as neighbours since 1950. The minute IWS is tore down, that history is gone and the new building becomes nothing more than a structure. Sure, we can spend the next 60 years creating new memories within the new venue's walls, but I think this city as a whole is trying really hard to preserve more of its history, instead of just knocking it down.
Is there a way to preserve this part of our history? That's all I am asking, and if not why?
Our caretaker, Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young, has asked for the opinion of the fans on theTicats.ca forums where he is known to get involved in the chats. Perhaps as the Tiger-Cats and the city continue to be at odds about deciding on a stadium location, Mayor Fred and his councillors could ask the 'city' community, what we think? What is our vision?
What is your vision, Hamilton?