Ti­cats hope game ex­pe­ri­ence just got 360 de­grees bet­ter

Sta­dium im­prove­ments let fans cir­cle the field, see ac­tion from all an­gles

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON

The im­prove­ments to the game­day ex­pe­ri­ence at Tim Hor­tons Field, un­veiled this week by the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats, took root long be­fore the sta­dium was built.

Sev­eral years ago, as they were an­a­lyz­ing pro­posed plans for their new home, the Tiger-Cats were acutely aware that what fans want and ex­pect in live en­ter­tain­ment was evolv­ing rapidly.

“There was an in­sight dur­ing the de­sign process,” says Matt Afinec, the Ti­cat ex­ec­u­tive v-p of busi­ness. “By de­sign, there are all these great spa­ces at Tim Hor­tons Field.”

Those spa­ces are in ob­vi­ous play with the “360-de­gree out-of-seat so­cial view­ing” projects the foot­ball team an­nounced this week.

The “360” refers to fans be­ing able to move from one side of the sta­dium to the other through both end zone ar­eas, and to stop on ei­ther end zone pa­tio to view the field. The “out-of-seat” part is just as it sounds. A cer­tain por­tion of fans — gen­er­ally, those un­der the age of 40 — no longer want to watch the game only from as­signed seats. They want to feel less re­stricted, con­nect with friends and other fans in com­mon ar­eas and see the game from dif­fer­ent an­gles.

“For the three years we’ve been in Tim Hor­tons Field, we’ve watched move­ment pat­terns,” Afinec says. “We see how many peo­ple are stand­ing, es­pe­cially younger fans. Af­ter three years of ob­serv­ing and, more im­por­tantly, lis­ten­ing to our fans, we’ve come up with an added ex­pe­ri­ence for our fans, and val­ueadded for our part­ners (spon­sors).”

The al­ter­ations in­clude a mas­sive 110-foot-long full ser­vice bar be­hind the south end zone, ac­ces­si­ble to all ticket hold­ers.

The touch­down steam whis­tle pre­vi­ously lo­cated in the east stands will now sit on a 12-foot pedestal in the south end pa­tio.

“We found peo­ple love tak­ing self­ies with it,” Afinec said.

“You can imag­ine on a game day the en­ergy as it’s pump­ing out smoke and sound. It’ll be a fo­cal point.”

About 80 per cent of the north end zone pa­tio, pre­vi­ously re­stricted to as­signed-ticket hold­ers, will now be open to all ticket hold­ers and there will be about 200 stand­ing room tick­ets avail­able at $29 per game.

There’s a craft gar­dens in the south­east cor­ner.

And the first-level con­course un­der the east stands will house a com­mu­nity re­lax­ation and TVview­ing lounge.

And the Find­lay Fam­ily Zone in the north­west cor­ner of the sta­dium will now have a 2,000-square-foot Ti­cats-themed play­ground.

As Spec­ta­tor foot­ball writer Drew Ed­wards pointed out in a sea­son pre­view, the Tiger-Cats are ap­peal­ing to a younger de­mo­graphic, which will be­come the core of their fu­ture fan base.

“No ques­tion,” Afinec agrees. “We think, for in­stance, that the $29 ticket will put us in a good po­si­tion to at­tract and keep at­tract­ing younger peo­ple.

“And fam­i­lies are cen­tral to our busi­ness.”

Afinec wouldn’t dis­close how much has been spent on the re­con­sti­tuted view­ing ar­eas.

How­ever, he says: “Be­tween the Ti­cats and our part­ners we’ve in­vested hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars.

“And these ar­eas are in place for all sta­dium events, in­clud­ing con­certs and soc­cer,” he said.

“We think the abil­ity to travel 360 de­grees is a uniquely Hamil­ton thing.

“In sport, we’re now in the day and age where you can’t dic­tate how peo­ple en­joy the game,” Afinec said with cer­tainty.

HAMIL­TON TIGER-CAT IM­AGES

The Sti­p­ley, with its Touch­down Whis­tle, is a 110-foot-long, full ser­vice bar in the south end zone.

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