Construction delays at Tim Hortons field have cost the CFL, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the city millions of potential U.S. viewers in a lucrative television deal.
A Ticats home game on July 31 was originally scheduled to broadcast on ESPN — but it has been bumped to an online-only screening on ESPN3, CBC Hamilton has learned.
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“Originally, this game was scheduled to be on ESPN to showcase Hamilton's new stadium,” said CFL spokesperson Jamie Dykstra. “But since the game has been moved to Ron Joyce Stadium, it will now be carried on ESPN's live multi-screen sports network, ESPN3.”
“ESPN will explore opportunities to feature Hamilton's new stadium on one of its linear TV networks later on in the season.”
The new $140-million stadium was due to be finished by July 26, which is the first Tiger-Cats home game. But earlier this month, officials revealed it wouldn't be done by the July 26 or 31 home games, and might not even be done before the Labour Day classic.
Moved to online platform
A spot on the main ESPN network would have given the team and the city the opportunity to showcase football and the new stadium to a massive U.S. audience. For example, ESPN’s flagship news show SportsCenter averages up to 115 million viewers a month.
ESPN 3 is part of the WatchESPN platform that showcases live events online like World Cup global qualifiers, Premier League soccer, high school football, NCAA college football and KHL hockey.
Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell told CBC Hamilton that the move isn't a big deal "in the bigger picture."
"There will be plenty of opportunities to get ESPN down at Tim Hortons field," Mitchell said.
The deal is part of a five-year agreement between the CFL and the U.S. broadcaster, Mitchell says, which will help expand the CFL's brand stateside. But for right now, he's more concerned with Canadian brands like TSN, who broadcasts the CFL in Canada.
"We're a Canadian league and our main business is here in Canada," he said.
Still work to be done
There’s still lots of work that needs to be done at the stadium. Crews still need to finish mechanical and electrical work, field drainage and every public elevator.
Infrastructure Ontario (IO) released a list of eight items that still need to be done, like sprinkler systems and handrails, installing some seats and "all mechanical and electrical work," the agency said in an email.
The heating and cooling systems also aren't finished. Much millwork remains, as does some of the stadium's lighting.
Pan Am subcommittee chair Lloyd Ferguson says the stadium construction delay "is what it is."
"It's completely out of our control."