The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be playing in an incomplete stadium for nearly the whole season, as construction is now acknowledged to be more than three months behind schedule.
But officials say none of the outstanding work will be a "show stopper," and fans will still have a good time.
'The difference might be that getting beer in cans instead of beer from the tap. It’s going to be a safe, quality site.' - John McKendrick, Infrastructure Ontario
But on opening day, fans at the new Tim Horton’s Field will have to do so without a scoreboard and the full complement of washrooms.
The new stadium will still be a construction site when fans file in for their first glimpse at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats home opener on July 26. Its new "substantial completion date" is in early October, a few weeks before the end of the CFL season.
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The original substantial completion date was June 30. But officials said Tuesday that weather and the bankruptcy of a subcontractor caused the delay.
"In order to play a game, we need a field, we need seats, we need lights and we need an occupancy permit, a temporary one," said Glenn Gibson, president of the Ticats. "And that implies the premises is safe to conduct a game. I don’t see any show stoppers here unless some trucks get held up at the border with our turf on them.”
Tuesday's announcement was the latest in a series of acknowledgements the project was falling behind schedule, dating back to January. At that time, the stadium was said to be two weeks behind. By the end of March, the project was said to be at most six weeks behind schedule.
Opening day will be missing a scoreboard and a full set of washrooms. Outdoor landscaping won't be finished, and there may be incomplete air conditioning and concession stands.
Gibson and city officials gave an update on the progress at a media conference at city hall Tuesday morning, assuring people there will be football in Hamilton on July 26.
'The difference might be that getting beer in cans instead of beer from the tap.' - John McKendrick, Infrastructure Ontario
It will still technically be a construction site on that date, said Gerry Davis, the city’s director of public works.
"It will be a temporary use. Get the game in there, get out and the contractor goes back in," he said. "The finishings won't all be there but the guts of it…are very critical."
Ontario Sports Solutions, the consortium building the $145-million stadium, doesn’t anticipate any issues when it applies for an occupancy permit on July 15, said John McKendrick, executive vice-president at Infrastructure Ontario.
If all goes well, the city will grant the permit by July 21. McKendrick couldn’t recall a time when one of his projects wasn’t granted a permit.
The stadium will be "cost effective" and "high quality," McKendrick said.
"Most fans won’t notice it," he said of the unfinished parts. "The difference might be that getting beer in cans instead of beer from the tap. It’s going to be a safe, quality site."
The Ticats have a contingency plan if they can’t play in the stadium, Gibson said. But he’s not saying what it is because he’s confident the team won’t need it.