The big CFL news that broke late Monday night didn't have anything to do with either of the teams competing in the 100th Grey Cup, but rather the long-since eliminated Hamilton Tiger-Cats. According to Drew Edwards of The Hamilton Spectator, the team has finally made arrangements for where they'll take their travelling road show next season while the old Ivor Wynne Stadium is torn down and the new one is built. Their choice? The University of Guelph:
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play the majority — and perhaps all — of their 2013 schedule at the University of Guelph, the Spectator has learned.
The team and university have reached an agreement that would enable the club to play all nine of their regular season games and one exhibition game at Alumni Stadium, home of the Guelph Gryphons. The facility, which just underwent a $18 million renovation, has an official capacity of 7,500 that will be expanded to approximately 12,000 to 15,000 through the use of temporary seating.
The Ticats may still play a game at a second location — both Moncton and the University of Western Ontario in London have been mentioned as potential sites — but there are no deals in place for a location other than Guelph.
This seems like a relatively logical move for Hamilton based on the options that had been discussed. McMaster University's decision to not partner with the Tiger-Cats took away the most natural option in Hamilton, but Guelph is relatively close. According to Yahoo! Maps, it's 47 kilometres from Ivor Wynne Stadium to the University of Guelph's campus, and the drive's estimated to take 42 minutes. That seems better for Hamilton-based fans than other previously mentioned possibilities, such as the University of Waterloo (a projected 59-minute drive) or Western University in London (a projected 1 hour, 29 minute drive). When you throw in Alumni Stadium's renovations this past offseason (including a video screen and new turf) and the Ticats' oft-stated desire to grow their presence in other nearby cities, there are plenty of elements in favour of this.
However, that doesn't mean the move won't come with questions. For one thing, that permanent capacity of 7,500 is far from ideal, and an expansion to 12,000-15,000 still means there will be significantly less seats available than there were at the old Ivor Wynne (capacity: 29,600). Of course, that may prove enough; who knows how many Hamilton fans will actually want to regularly make the trek up to Guelph? Still, it's a definite reduction in the amount of tickets the team can sell. Furthermore, it's going to be interesting to see just how this plays out from a field and scheduling perspective; the on-the-rise Guelph Gryphons still have to use Alumni Stadium too. Having two teams play home games at the same stadium generally isn't ideal (especially in terms of what that means for the playing surface), and that could get more complicated if they have to use the same practice facilities as well.
Moreover, Guelph Mercury managing editor Phil Andrews raised plenty of valid concerns in a Friday column discussing the Tiger-Cats to Guelph rumblings, including potential traffic, policing and financial issues. It's clear there are going to be plenty of important details involved here, and until those come out, it will be difficult to fully judge this deal for either side. What's already clear is that this isn't a simple plan in any way, shape or form.
This isn't an easy solution, unlike, say, the locally-located and much-praised temporary stadium the B.C. Lions used in 2010 and part of 2011. Heading to Guelph for most or all of 2013 could well work, and it might have been the best option the Tiger-Cats had on the table. That doesn't mean this will all be smooth sailing, though. Still, at least there's some word on where the Tiger-Cats actually plan to play next year. It's taken way too long to get to this point: wouldn't it have been better for the franchise to be able to tell fans where they were going by the final home game at the old Ivor Wynne? At least something's happened on this front, and now we can move on to investigating and debating the merits of the Guelph decision instead of spending more time pondering where Hamilton's headed.