FirstOntario Centre stinks like '10,000 asses,' says Def Leppard as debate around arena continues

As the debate about the future of the aging downtown arena continues to swirl a video dated July 20, 2019 and featuring Def Leppard has surfaced. In it frontman Joe Elliott doesn't hold back, saying it's old and smelly.

'I guess they're getting old. I'm surprised they even notice the smells': Coun. Merulla

A video has resurfaced showing Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott describing the FirstOntario Centre as smelling like "10,000 asses." (DEF LEPPARD/YouTube)

What's old, leaky and stinks, at least according to some?

Based on that description a person could be forgiven for answering either Def Leppard or FirstOntario Centre, depending on their familiarity with hair metal and municipal politics.

Now, as the debate about the future of Hamilton's aging downtown arena continues, a video dated July 20, 2019 and featuring the hugely successful English band has surfaced bringing both subjects together as an unlikely duo.

In it, frontman Joe Elliott doesn't hold back, sharing his impression of the facility the group played at on that date last summer.

"This building is old, the underneath of this building f--king stinks, like a 10,000 asses stink," he says. "It's awful. Its f--king minging. However, it's going to be a sold out gig so who cares?"

That comment hit a bit of a sour note for Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr.

"That's a lot of asses," he quipped with a chuckle.

The councillor quickly added while he's not exactly a supporter of the band, he knows plenty of people are fans.

Still, he joked, Elliott's words were a little rich coming from a band that's "also old and stinks."

The video came to light Thursday thanks to a Reddit poster shared it, saying they debated posting it a couple months back, but held off to avoid the "lame" comments poking fun at the band.

Watch the video from Def Leppard's stop in Hamilton: Caution contains language some might find offensive.

As city council prepares to receive a report recommending it reject a proposal from Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer to build a new, 6,000-seat arena at Lime Ridge Mall, the video and the thoughts it contains are topical again.

The report from the planning and economic development department states that "staff be directed to take no further action" on that plan.

It's set to go before the general issues committee on Wednesday and Farr said he believes it means that dream is all but dead.

Debate around what to do with the existing arena has been going on since 2017 when a group of private businesses volunteered to spend $250,000 on a study that would look at upgrading the venues, tearing them down to build them in a cluster, or even relocating them somewhere else.

City staff previously said Hamilton needs a "right-sized" venue to replace the former Copps Coliseum — one with about 10,000 seats rather than the 17,400 the arena has now.

FirstOntario Centre
A September report says the city needs a "right-sized" arena. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Officials are looking at establishing a precinct that also includes FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre. The arena needs extensive repairs, and the city gives it an ongoing subsidy. 

The Bulldogs are the main tenant, and a staff report received by the committee in September predicted attendance OHL games would increase 20 to 50 per cent with a new facility. Increased revenue, staff say, would bring in $20 million over the next 30 years.

It would cost as much as $130 million to build a new facility, that report said and some councillors have expressed hesitation at the price tag.

While the city respects and appreciates all Andlauer and the team have done, Farr says investors have shown serious interest in participating in a downtown mandate and he believes the arena would be OK even if the Bulldogs decided to relocate.

"As a glass half full guy, we are Hamilton and finding a prime tenant … would not be a challenge," he said.

FirstOntario Centre
Based on the video, Councillor Jason Farr says he believes frontman Joe Elliott was standing in a dressing room, which may explain the smell. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

As the downtown representative and announcer for the Honey Badgers, which play at the arena, Farr said he's familiar with the site. He figures, based on the video, Def Leppard were standing in a dressing room when the disparaging words were said.

Given their location, he says isn't surprised they were struck by an "old hockey bag smell."

And while he's heard a long list of complaints about the stadium over the years, this was the first time smell was specifically pointed out.

'I guess they're getting old'

Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla was also surprised by the band's olfactory sensitivity.

"I guess they're getting old. I'm surprised they even notice the smells and stuff like that," he said with a laugh. "Normally they'd just play the show and have a few rounds of whisky."

Merulla does consider himself a Def Leppard fan, saying he often listens to them on Spotify. He wasn't put off by Elliott's words and instead saw them as confirmation of what he's been saying.

"We're just trying to make [the band] feel at home," the councillor joked "I'm glad they acknowledged it's old. That's why I brought forward my motion to get out of the entertainment business."

Merulla added next time Def Leppard is in town he hopes they'll be more comfortable.

"They're showing their age," he said. "They're looking to be pampered and they will be pampered in the near future once we redevelop the site."

with files from Samantha Craggs