Looking for a cool place to have a wedding? How about Tim Hortons Field? The City of Hamilton is standing by for your call.

The football shrine on Cannon Street may not be on your radar, but there are rooms for rent galore inside the stadium, and the field is up for grabs too.

In February the city showed off the stadium to potential clients as part of a Stadium Precinct update.  Inside the guts of the stadium, eight floors have space for rent from simple meeting rooms to lounges and “club” space.

“The rooms are rented about 54 percent of the time, Rome D’Angelo, the city’s director of Energy, Fleet and Facilities, said at the stadium open house.

Interested parties got a tour of the real estate starting with the top floor press box.  There’s an interesting, unobstructed view of the city, which could fill in gaps if you happen to be covering one of the more morose Tiger-Cat games.

I spent quite a few hours in the old press box covering the Tiger- Cats in the 1970’s and ’80’s. There were horrible games and wonderful games in that time period. And what sticks in my mind? Sitting next to Scott Young, Neil Young’s father, when he was covering the CFL for the Globe and Mail. He was a lovely, elegant man.

From the press box the tour descended to an almost bewildering tour of club and lounge space, including the 1869 Club, Hall of Fame Club, Champion’s Club, Wall of Honour, Community Stars Club, and Tim Hortons Field Club Level, and that’s not all the space.

As in all things City of Hamilton, there was a subtext.  The tours were led by city employees, who very much want to stay involved with stadium rentals. But with rooms renting out 54 percent of the time, and the field at 60 percent, the pressure is on to contract out stadium bookings.

As D’Angelo admitted, the building and field are underutilized, the city would like to achieve 90 percent booking. “We try but we just don’t have the skill sets to do that,”  D’Angelo says, especially of the competition to book mid-size concerts at the stadium. The city must also work around the 20-year licensing agreement with the Tiger-Cats, which means booking around the dates when the ‘Cats have facilities rented.

Then there’s the parking challenge , look at the Champions Club for instance. It holds 687 people and books out at a corporate full day rate of $2,621. Where would event parking for that space be?

“It’s a challenge, it’s always been a given in this area,” D’Angelo says.”Parking’s a challenge for the ‘Cats too , I know they are looking at other areas, like the Dominion glass site.”

On March 21st at the General Issues Committee council will consider contracting out event bookings at the stadium to Spectra Venue Management, the company that has been operating city owned First Ontario Centre, Concert Hall, and Studio Theatre.

No matter who tries to rent out the space at Tim Hortons Field, it will be a challenge. The Stadium Precinct is destined to get busier.  The new super high school is slated to open its doors to 1,250 students on the old Scott Park High School site in September 2019.  The Bernie Morelli Centre is just across the street from the stadium, and scheduled to open this fall. The two story building will have a full sized gym, a run/walk track, a leisure pool, meeting rooms, and kitchen. The outdoor splash pad will convert to a mini skating trail around two landscaped islands in the winter. In size and amenities it will be similar to Westmount Recreation Centre. It will also hook up to Jimmy Thompson Pool, though not at ground level. City staff are calling it the “Jimmy to Bernie connection.”

Further away the old Dominion Glass site on Chapple Street looks like it’s in a holding pattern pending funding for conversion to sports fields.

I asked Terry Mote a member of the Sherman Hub if there were any concerns in the neighbourhood. From her view there aren’t, but the group would like to see the often idle plaza around Tim Hortons Field put to use-perhaps with pop up markets.

Ultimately the lands around the stadium are on the uptick with more people and more activity on the way. That seems like a positive chapter in the long running stadium saga.

Providing a Fresh Perspective for Burlington and Hamilton.

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