IVOR WYNNE STADIUM
75 Balsam Ave.
The Civic Stadium was first opened in 1930. The stadium was originally built to host the British Empire Games which was Canada's first major international athletic event held in August of 1930. The Stadium held approximately two thousand seats when it was first built and was managed by the Culture and Recreation Board.
In 1950, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats became the permanent tenants of the Civic Stadium. However, the professional CFL team discovered there were many inadequacies with the stadium which included insufficient availability of seats for the games. Therefore, the City of Hamilton approved Ivor Wynne's proposal to install additional spectator bleachers on the north side of the Stadium. Construction of this project was completed in 1959 and approximately 15,000 new seats were added, radically increasing the stadium's capacity. Other renovations included the installation of washroom facilities which were desperately needed.
In 1970, the Civic Stadium was renamed Ivor Wynne Stadium in honor of Ivor Wynne. The name change commemorated all of his accomplishments which had improved McMaster and the City of Hamilton. Some of his more notable deeds were the development of a Physical Education course and a Physical Education complex at McMaster University. Unfortunately, it was in the same year that the newly named Ivor Wynne Stadium was beginning to show its age.
Ivor Wynne Stadium was beginning to be an embarrassment for the league. The disrepair of the stadium was seen by American television audiences, and resulted in poor morale and suggestions that the Canadian Football League (CFL) was a “bush? or minor league. As a result, American television stations covering Canadian Football games refused to air games played in Hamilton. The stations felt broadcasting Hamilton games sent a message to American audiences that the Canadian Football League was not a professional athletic organization. Even the classic match-ups between the Toronto Argo's and the Hamilton Tiger Cats were not broadcast until renovations to the stadium were completed. Visiting teams issued criticisms about the stadium. They complained that there was not enough room to conduct half-time discussions, nor were there enough showers. The visiting teams also complained that there was no place to conduct media interviews. The complaints from the American media and visiting teams were acknowledged by the CFL, which prompted the city to discuss ways of improving the stadium.
The city allocated $2,000,000 to renovate the stadium. The renovations included the addition of permanent bleachers on the north side of the stadium which resulted in a total of 30,000 spectator seats, making it the largest capacity stadium in the league. The bleachers on the south side of the stadium were also repaired. New concession stands were added in anticipation of higher demand, due to the increase in capacity. Moreover, the visiting team's change room, located on the east side of the stadium was also renovated. The walls under the east side bleachers were removed to add a new room for the opposing team to conduct their half-time meetings and media interviews. Artificial turf was new to Canada and Ivor Wynne Stadium was the first stadium in Canada to install it as its playing field. The grand total for the turf upgrade was $400,000. After the renovations, Ivor Wynne Stadium was considered one of the best stadium in the league.
There were two main factors that fueled the renovations to the Stadium. The first was to end the negative comments regarding the stadium, and the second was to host the Grey Cup in 1972. The city's bid to hold the Grey Cup was approved by the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats eventually won the Grey Cup in 1972.
In 1976, more renovations were scheduled. The City of Hamilton installed a new team manager's office, which cost $84,000. Four years later, the stadium required more renovations. The artificial turf was deteriorating and posed serious hazard for the safety of players on the field. The stands were not completely waterproof which resulted in $400,000 in repairs. The city began to install new artificial turf called PAT Turf, which cost the city three hundred thousand dollars, half the cost it would taken to replace the artificial turf. A new scoreboard was also purchased by the city. The new scoreboard had a colour display, but could not broadcast instant replays.
The stadium's concession stands were rented out by the city to Harold Ballard in 1983. Ballard, an owner of Maple Leaf Gardens and the Tiger Cats had heated discussions with the City of Hamilton over the profits made through the stadium's concessions. He maintained the profits belonged to him and not to the City. After many threats to take the franchise to a different city, Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow relented and allowed Ballard to keep the profits from both the beer and concession stands.
Ivor Wynne Stadium had another scoreboard installed in 1983. Mr. Ballard decided on a scoreboard that was 72 feet across and 28 feet deep. The board had 4000 light-bulbs for a colour display which was able to display animations, line drawing of players, and personal statistics. However, once again, the scoreboard could not display instant replays of the game.
Other renovations which were conducted in 1983 included, a new drainage system that cost $100,000, new sewer connections that cost $125,000, new water sealing and coating that cost $350,000, new stairway repairs that cost $50,000, and the relocating of the scoreboard that cost $10,000. Eight years would pass with no major renovations. In 1991, the City of Hamilton replaced the deteriorating artificial turf.
The new Astro Turf that was installed in the stadium cost the city approximately 1,400,000. The turf surface was gigantic measuring in at 106,350 square feet. A year later, the city painted the stadium stands in different colours in order to represent the official colours of the teams in the Canadian Football League. The only exception to the painting scheme was the north part of Ivor Wynne stadium, the painters painted the Canadian Flag to commemorate Canada's 125th birthday.
Hamilton would later have the opportunity to host the Grey Cup again but it would not be until 1996. In anticipation of the Grey Cup, the City of Hamilton made further changes to the stadium. They added a new sound system, and temporary bleachers to boost the capacity of the stadium from 30,000 to approximately 40,000 seats. The city also installed new sky boxes just in time for the Grey Cup. These corporate boxes were installed on the ends of the existing corporate box. A total of fourteen sky boxes were installed in the stadium costing $1,200,000.
Ivor Wynne Stadium is the site of the largest outdoor videoboard in country. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Dofasco Steel Company have teamed up to have the fifth largest outodor board in North America, appropriately named the Dofasco TigerVision.
Ivor Wynne Stadium has undergone many changes over the years, but the stadium has remained true to the original vision of an outdoor stadium. In fact, it is one of the few stadiums of its kind in North America and is a significant historical and cultural landmark of Hamilton-Wentworth.
Ivor Wynne Stadium Scrapbooks: vol. 1 - 5. Special Collections, HPL. Clipping File. Hamilton - Stadium - Ivor Wynne Stadium. Special Collections, HPL. Clipping File. Hamilton - Biography - Ivor Wynne.