Tim Hortons Field: First impression from the turf
In the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' first open practice since taking to Tim Hortons Field, the media got a glimpse of a team in progress practicing in a work in progress.
Fire alarm lights flashed on the west side stands as quarterback Zach Collaros took the first scrimmage snaps in Thursday's practice. The scrimmage sounds were drowned out by the constant drone from power washer being operated by a pair of workers at the 20 yard line.
Above them, another pair of workers ran leaf blowers through the upper deck. It was in one of only two upper decks that would be available if the City of Hamilton grants a partial permit to operate the Labour Day Classic on Monday — or Tuesday, depending if things can be ready — between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts.
At the other upper deck, glass to the media booth had yet to be put in, and the suites would be off-limits in the soft opening of the new field.
Walking in to the stadium offers the first major difference for anyone familiar with Ivor Wynne stadium. With Brian Timmins Stadium demolished, there's a large open concrete space along Cannon street, although passers-by won't be able to see the action on the turf, which is sunk into the ground by some six feet as well as a concrete wall.
Cannon Street, as well as Beachwood Ave., won't have the stands towering over them anymore since the stadium was turned 90-degrees. The stands will now be referred to as east and west, instead of north and south.
And while the field itself will look drastically different from the street with a sunken field, gone is the dugout-style benches for teams, which have been replaced by a much larger sideline area with plenty of artificial turf and a wide concrete runner around the edge of the stadium.
From the field, Tim Hortons Field is big, but by capacity, it's certainly not bigger. Ivor Wynne held 29,600, compared to a best-case-scenario Tim Hortons Field capacity of 24,000. Some of the seats, including the ones on the east stands, were having last minute repairs done Thursday, while barriers and gates were installed in front of others.
The high walls close to the sideline that defined Ivor Wynne and put fans close to the action are still a feature, but are much further back from the sidelines.
Much of the work stopped during the main scrimmages in practice while workers took in their lunch in the southeast corner of the stadium. The north end of the field along Beachwood is a different story - it's still largely under construction, and a skyjack spent most of practice stretching up to the top of the main video screen to facilitate work there.
And in the corner of the end zone, unfazed by the ongoing construction was Ticats owner Bob Young and CEO Scott Mitchell. Both casually walked the sidelines. Mitchell said he's getting updates hourly and said the language of his staff sounded more confident about playing at Tim Hortons Field this Labour Day.
He wouldn't put a number to their chances, unlike Ancaster Councillor Llyod Ferguson who pegged the chances of opening on Monday at 85 per cent Wednesday. But decision times are around the corner: Mitchell said they should know on Friday what they should tell the Rogers Centre, if they'll need to prepare for a game Tuesday night.
Mitchell said that if the occupancy permit is issued the game can be played there.
"I can say with great confidence that operationally there's nothing going to stand in the way with this being a great experience on Monday and being able to satisfy the standards of TSN and the CFL in terms of football operations, our game day operations."