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Inside the CFL: No home field advantage

Ted Michaels, CFL Editor

Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - The stadium.

Never have two words caused so much discussion, consternation and at times, anger, among the residents of Hamilton.

Back in November of 2009, it was announced that the 2015 Pan Am Games would be coming to Toronto and other Southern Ontario cities, including Hamilton.

And, as part of the announcement, the federal and provincial governments would kick in money for a new stadium, as would the city.

Seemed easy enough.

Get government money and build a stadium.

Not so fast.

Since that November day, the question of where to put a new stadium resulted in heated battles, lots of rhetoric and it became a hot button issue heading into last year's civic election.

From the Tiger-Cats saying they'd never play at a site known as the West Harbour, to big business touting a site on the East Mountain, everyone had an opinion.

In the end, it was decided that Ivor Wynne Stadium, the current home of the Tiger-Cats, would be renovated, starting at the end of the 2012 season.

Last week, a bit of a shockwave went through Hamilton City Hall, when councilors found out that renovation plans would take one season, instead of two.

That means the Tiger-Cats would play their home games elsewhere in the 2013 season, and go back to the new Ivor Wynne in time for the 2014 season.

The one season renovation would potentially add more costs to the project, which would involve demolishing, then rebuilding, the 15,000-seat south stands, and renovating the 10,000-seat north stands.

The total cost of the project, split between the three levels of government... $152 million.

Councilor Lloyd Ferguson, who knows a thing or two about construction because of his previous life as the GM of a local construction company, told AM 900 CHML News, he's worried about the tight timelines for rebuilding Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Ferguson believes the city may have to pay a "premium" to meet that target. A request for proposals will be issued by the end of this summer.

President Scott Mitchell was quick to shoot down a report suggesting the Tiger-Cats would play at Rogers Centre in Toronto for a season.

He said they have several options, including playing in a temporary stadium or possibly playing neutral site games in London and Moncton, New Brunswick.

One persistent rumor that won't go away has the Tiger-Cats playing most of their games in 2013 at Ron Joyce Stadium, on the campus of McMaster University.

The Mac Marauders play their Canadian University football games at the "Ron" and the Tiger-Cats have held their training camp at the new stadium and facilities for the last three years.

Could Mac's home become the Tiger-Cats home?

"I've had one discussion with (Tiger-Cat president) Scott Mitchell about the possibilities and it was just an informal discussion," Mac athletic director Jeff Giles said in an interview last week.

"The only real possibility is putting temporary seats over the road on the other side of the stadium and also in the end zone. Our existing stands seat 5,500. We think we could squeeze in 15,000 people with temporary stands. It's possible to put them there and drive under them when they're not being used. Of course, it's a cost."

Giles was the former COO of the CFL. In 1995, he saw thousands of temporary seats added to Regina's Taylor Field, for that city's first-ever Grey Cup, as was the case in 1998 in Winnipeg. He knows it can be done, but for those fans in Hamilton that don't want travel to see a home game, he issued this caveat.

"We have to see if there's a will to do this, on our side, as well as the Tiger-Cats and the city. But, this would be a tremendous disruption to the university."

Let's hope the disruption is kept to a minimum for all concerned.

Notes: As indicated in this space last week, on Monday, the Steven Harper Progressive Conservatives brought down their first budget since the May 2 election. And, in the budget, the government has allocated $5 million to help in the promotion and marketing of the 2012 Grey Cup in Toronto.

Love the line from the chairman of the Montreal Alouettes board of directors.

Last Friday, the Als received their 2010 Grey Cup rings at a ceremony before the start of training camp.

Paul Harris told the crowd and the team, that next year's ring ceremony will take place Friday, June 1, and they should "mark it on their calendars."

Let the fun begin.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter, on AM 900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Ted Michaels at ted@900chml.com.

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