Thousands of fans, almost all in black and yellow, roared as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats took down the Toronto Argonauts on Monday to win the first-ever game at the brand new Tim Hortons Field.
The game marks the first major event at the new Tim Hortons Field, where construction work was stopped for a few hours so the ‘Cats could square off with the rival Toronto Argonauts and the fans could finally get inside the new stadium. Almost everyone liked what they saw.
“Unbelievable … a long time coming,” said John Downton, a Ticats fan for some 40 years, just after the players ran onto the field through jets of white smoke.
When asked if Monday’s party made him miss the old Ivor Wynne stadium at all, Downton said no.
“It had to be done,” he said, adding the new stadium will be a far better experience for the city’s fans.
“Hamilton needs this, really,” he said.
The new stadium will have permanent seating for 24,000 spectators, though around 6,000 seats were still off-limits during Monday's game as construction continues on a glassed-in level as well as two more decks of seating on the western section. Tim Hortons Field is set to host a different kind of football — the soccer portion of next summer's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games — in addition to Tiger-Cats home games and outdoor concerts.
City building inspectors Sunday night granted the new Tim Hortons Field a temporary occupancy permit stretching from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday. Most fans shrugged off the ongoing construction work on Monday, some even opting to pose for pictures next to Ticats logos emblazoned on mesh covering pipes that hadn't been finished.
Another hiccup happened shortly after the gates opened, as concession booths sold out of water, snacks and sandwiches almost immediately. With the elevators not working yet, stadium staff carried boxes of water up the stairs to restock the vendors.
The kinks didn't seem to bother the fans much. The Box J Boys, known for wearing hard hats and kilts, sang their lungs out in section 103 — officially their new home at the new stadium. In the concourse, one Ticats fan wore a Stormtrooper mask over his white jersey and football gloves. Others in the crowd carried sunflowers, which were handed out by Ticats cheerleaders before the game.
And, while the win was just the second of the season for the struggling Tiger-Cats, the Grey Cup was on display outside the gates.
“Everything’s great, really, I can’t say enough,” said Peter Peebles, a longtime fan who watched the game from the west concourse, a spot he said was so sweet he might watch every game standing up.
“This is so fresh, the lines are so clean,” Peebles said, adding he thought Hamilton's was the best of the new CFL stadiums.
“It suits Hamilton, being open like this,” said Darlene Mason, as she admired the new plaza area just off Cannon St. E.
From the concourse level, you can look up to the Mountain and over to the downtown core, while the steel plants are visible just to the side of the scoreboard.
'Oskee wee wee'
Among the treats on hand for ticket-holders: mini football toys, free coffee (yes, it was Tims), face-painting and two team mascots. The game started with an emotional rendition of the team's "Oskee wee wee..." chant, the singing of "O Canada" and a fumble by the Toronto Argonauts.
Here are some photos and thoughts people at the game shared on social media: