Hamilton Tiger-Cats officials said Thursday they're taking steps to provide fans with water after the team's new stadium, which will also host Pan Am Games soccer, opened without public drinking fountains.
Team officials say they're waiting to see if the tap water inside Tim Hortons Field is deemed safe to drink. If it is, fans will be permitted to bring empty plastic water bottles to the stadium that they can fill up at stadium taps, team spokesman Scott McNaughton said.
The team joins Pan Am organizers in taking steps to make water available free during matches inside the stadium, home of the Tiger-Cats and the men's and women's soccer events at next summer’s Pan Am Games.
Nobody would definitively say why the stadium, built by Ontario Sports Solutions (ONSS) with funding from all three levels of government, isn’t equipped with fountains.
Under a 20-year licence agreement with the city, the Tiger-Cats take the bulk of the profits from concession sales, but team President Scott Mitchell adamantly denied the team was trying to make money by not providing free water.
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Gerry Davis, the City of Hamilton’s general manager of public works, said when the $145-million stadium is finally completed, it will only have fountains in the dressing room and office areas.
The entire stadium will have drinkable water, Davis said, but the stadium’s site design plan, agreed to by the city, didn’t include fountains.
Teddy Katz, spokesman for the Pan Am Games, said TO2015 organizers are making arrangements to address the issue ahead of next summer's events.
"We hope to have water trucks for spectators there at games time," Katz said in an email.
The soccer matches are set to be played between 5 and 10 p.m. in mid-July, when the average daily temperatures is around 27 C.
Earlier this week, Hamilton Tiger-Cats President and Chief Operating Officer Glenn Gibson said he had “no idea” about fountains at the field.
“You’re the first one that’s asked that question,” Gibson told CBC News.
“That’s a question that someone else would probably have to answer, either at the city or ONSS.”
After this story was published, CFL spokesman Jamie Dykstra said in an email: “It’s our understanding that the Ticats are addressing this issue.
When asked to elaborate on what the club was planning, Dykstra declined to comment.
“We don’t speak on behalf of the Ticats.”
Councillor may ask staff to look into issue
Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, who heads the city’s Pan Am subcommittee, said he’s “puzzled” by the lack of drinking fountains at the new facility.
“I think there should be drinking fountains,” he said, adding the Ticats plan to allow fans to fill up at taps is “better than nothing.”
He said Infrastructure Ontario and ONSS determined the stadium’s design, and should answer for the lack of fountains.
He also said the decision may have been motivated by safety concerns, saying drunk fans could turn a full aluminum water bottle into a projectile weapon.
When asked if it was fair to fans that a stadium they helped fund lacked fountains, Ferguson replied: “Not really.”
“If I get enough push back that there should be fountains then I’ll bring it up at council and get staff to look into it,” he said.
According to the city’s licence agreement with the Tiger-Cats, “the stadium is intended to become a community asset,” that will serve as a gathering space for “health, wellness and family fitness programming.”
Concessions ran out of water
During the first-ever event at Tim Hortons Field — the Labour Day Classic between the Ticats and Toronto Argonauts — concession stands on both concourses briefly ran out of bottled water ($3.50 for a 591 millilitre bottle of Dasani) minutes after kickoff and stadium staff were forced to scramble to restock.
Mitchell said the stadium "in no way" ran out of water during the game, but said there may have been moments where concessions had to be re-stocked.
Without the use of the building’s elevators — still under construction at game time — employees carried cases of water up the main stairways as the temperature climbed above 27 C.
Gibson said he heard about the water shortage, but chalked it up to playing a game in an unfinished stadium.
“You’ve got to remember the elevators weren’t working. We were restricted with what we could bring on to certain levels,” he said.
Gibson said he didn’t receive any complaints about the availability of water.
The stadium never ran out beer, which sells for $9 per can.
Not the case elsewhere
Infrastructure Ontario, the Crown corporation owned by the province that oversaw the stadium’s development, said other new Pan Am facilities — including Milton’s velodrome, which will host track cycling events, and Scarborough’s new aquatic centre, which will host swimming and diving — both have public water stations.
Other major sports facilities in the GTA, including the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre and BMO Field, all have public water fountains where fans can fill up.
Most have some rules over what kind of bottles can be brought in, but clear plastic bottles are normally OK.
Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre, however, doesn’t have public fountains either.
Tim Hortons Field is set to host its next game on Sunday, when the Tiger-Cats play the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Country star Keith Urban is set to play the first-ever concert at the stadium on Sept. 27.
If you have information about this story, please contact John Rieti.