Ti-Cats season ticket sales highest in 30 years

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Just two and half years after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats floated belly-up on the shoals of bankruptcy, Bob Young's franchise is set to break attendance records for the third consecutive season.

With the club's season ticket renewal deadline just passed, the Cats experienced an 85 to 90 per cent renewal rate. Those figures combined with new sales over the next three months are expected to push the club's 2006 season ticket subscriber base past last season's 17,206 total and into the mid 18,000s.

Adam Provost, the club's vice-president of external relations, said the expected sales would easily be the organization's highest in three decades and likely a franchise record.

The Cats averaged 28,002 last season in the 29,600-seat Ivor Wynne Stadium. Cats acquisition of quarterback Jason Maas, and the hiring of offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao, have contributed to the sales push.

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With three starters missing from the unit that began the 2005 season for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, head coach Greg Marshall makes no bones that a re-tooled offensive line is his key priority on the eve of the free agent signing deadline.

With former Cat centre Tim Bakker (Edmonton), guard Dan Comiskey (Edmonton) and offensive tackle Jon’ta Woodard (Washington of the NFL) having departed the Balsam Avenue bengal bunker, the Tabbies need to overhaul the powertrain in a hurry.

With the Canadian Football League annual free agent bidding war set to begin Feb. 16, the Cats are ready to pounce on expected free agent offensive linemen, particularly Ottawa guard George Hudson.

Hudson is part of a dynamic free agent duo – along with Renegades’ import running back Josh Ranek – that the Tabbies hope to land. The fact both the Renegades’ former head coach Joe Paopao and offensive line coach Kani Kauahi are currently employed by Team Hamilton, speaks well to the Cats chances of success.

“Three of our starting offensive linemen are gone. We have to replace those guys. When the free agent period starts, there are a couple of guys out there that we’ll have to go after,” Marshall said yesterday.

Marshall said Ticats will make offensive linemen a priority in the Canadian College Draft April 20. The Ticats own the 10th, 11th and 13th picks and the Cats’ bench boss believes there are about 20 solid players in the draft that could help teams immediately.

“We’ll look at best athlete and all those things but we will be targeting offensive lineman,” he said.

Expected back are offensive tackle Travis (Big Ridge) Claridge, a late season addition who impressed before suffering a knee injury, starting right guard Wayne Smith, starting centre Marwan Hage, Canadian tackle Ryan Donnelly, who could become a free agent next week, and Canadian homebrews Fabio Filice and Mark Moroz. The Cats recently signed former B.C. Lion import tackle Jamal Powell, who could also prove to be a possible starter.

In any event, the Cats, who expect to start two Yankees on the offensive line, will sign two or three other American tackles before the start of the May 21 training camp.

Woodard, who had just completed two seasons in Ticat colours, was one of four Cats to take advantage of the CFL/NFL agreement that allows players in their option year to sign south of the border between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15. The others were running back Jesse Lumsden and import receivers Kahlil Hill and Taylor Stubblefield.

Marshall said the Cats will troll the CFL free agent market for a running back, receiver and linebacker. While the coach can’t talk names since the players still belong to their respective clubs, Ranek, Edmonton receiver Jason Tucker and B.C. Lions linebacker Barrin Simpson all interest Team Tabby.

What is known for sure is that the Tiger-Cats will be a bigger player in the free agent sweepstakes than last season when they signed just two, former B.C. Lions receiver Chris Brazzell and former Ottawa defensive lineman Roger Dunbrack.

“I think we’ll be aggressive. Having said that, other teams are in the same boat. It will be interesting.”

The Tabbies still have a few of their own potential free agents to re-sign. They include import receiver Dondre Gilliam, back-up linebacker Mat Petz, Donnelly, defensive lineman Hakeem Kashama and running back Kojo Aidoo.

Despite the presence of heavy construction for the completion of a $43 million athletic complex and football and soccer stadium, the Cats are planning to hold their third consecutive training camp at McMaster University, starting on May 21.

That is some the greatest CFL news ever. They may have had a crappy season last year, but that organization appears to be first class. Now that Danny Mac is gone, and they have Mass, and if they get Ranek, WATCH OUT, and I'm a lions fan :frowning: Happy they are the east.
I guess I just like teams named after cats of some kind....

Yes sir! Hey Mr. Godfrey, are we cutting into your Blue Jays profits a bit? Guess not as many Hamiltonians are running down the QEW these days to spend their money and time on the Blue Jays and fighting traffic and wasting so much time in their cars. What, now you have to sell seats for $81 for 81 games or whatever just trying to compete with Bob Young? Hurts eh, saying you have to compete agains't the lowly CFL for fans in southern Ontario? I love it! And we ain't done yet, wait until the day there will be a waiting list for seasons tickets for the Cats, and who know, maybe even the Argos one day. Now that will really hurt where it counts.


that's great news for the TIGER CATS!!!

but I hope the Jays and the "Ontario" Raptors say in TO.

I hear ya KK and I do sorta of feel the same. I'd love to cheer more for the Jays but I just can't stomach it knowing Godfrey hates the CFL, I just can't ever go to another Jays game as long as that arrogant person is involved with them. Hey, if he can be arrogant so can I.

That's excellent news DG. To think, a few years ago both the Ticats and the Argos were on the brink and without owners. A healthy CFL needs all teams to be viable but especially here in the Southern Ontario market.
You almost hate to say it and it certainly is a good thing to talk about as are the politicians in Hamilton, whether to fix or build a new and bigger stadium with 40,000 seats

It would be great to see a new stadium in Hamilton! It would be great to see a new stadium here in Ottawa as well. I'll keep on dreaming.


maybe they should just get the politicians to improve the stadium they got...sound system is a big complaint.

Ottawa is a different kettle of fish than Hamilton. Frank Clair Stadium is in a beautiful location, right on the Rideau Canal. It is a gem, just maybe needs some upgrading at some point. But Ivor Wynne, while having great sightlines, is in a crappy part of town, does nothing to showcase the great harbourfront we have with trails and such. A whole different thing. If I was coming from out of town, I have the impression of being concerned about parking near Ivor Wynne if I didn’t know the city.

I agree with Frank Clair's location. Its sweet. I've never been to Hamilton.

Well, if Hamilton keeps putting up the numbers at IW, a new stadium shouldn't be far in the future.

I think so KK. Right now, while we are getting some of the "elite" Hamiltonians rightly called "Ancasterites" - this is where the bulk of the rich doctors, lawyers, etc. live here - there are still a fair number that will have nothing to to with going to a game at IWS simply because of the location, IMO. Now these elite I suppose don't translate into huge numbers but they do give the TiCats and league a better image here. There are a fair number of Ancasterites and rich Hamiltonians that want to spend their money in downtown Hamilton, they obviously like living here and having someone like Bob Young has gone a long way. But the next step is a new facility near the harbourfront that these people will care to step into and "be seen." I do believe that Hamilton, with a new facilty, will be able to draw 35,000 regularly game in and game out with a new facility here but it has to be done along the lines of what the John Labatt Centre did with London, doesn't need to be huge like an NHL arena or a Rogers Centre, but does need to be classy.

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Incredible fan resurgence sparked by Young's marketing

"If they can sell out Montreal in a cynical big city place like that,we 've got to be able to do that in Hamilton where we 're the only big

league sport in town." -- Hamilton Tiger-

Cats owner Bob Young,Feb.3,2004.

When Young made that comment to The Hamilton Spectator just two years ago,his club was coming off a 1-17 season,had a season ticket base of 7,500 and was averaging just 13,000 fans.

Sell-outs?In Hamilton?You have to be joking.Two years later,no one is laughing at club projections of selling more than 18,000 season tickets before the 2006 home opener.Less than five years ago,if the Ticats drew
17,000 to aging,dumpy Ivor Wynne Stadium,that was considered a decent crowd.

Just ask Larry Oleskiw.He was there.The lifelong Ticat fan and season ticket holder since 1974 has missed just one Ticat game since 1967.

"That was for my sister 's wedding.I haven't forgiven her either."

The point is Oleskiw has plenty of company at Ticat contests these days.
Since Young plucked the franchise off the shoals of bankruptcy two and half years ago, the season ticket base has increased by 68 per cent.These days 17,000 is the club 's season ticket base.These days if the Cats can't
attract 27,000-plus to the Balsam Avenue North stadium,the front office staff frown.

The Tabbies were terrible last season, winning just five contests.But still the crowds came.The club 's average attendance was 28,002,up 500 per game from the season before.

The club lifted the local blackout on every home contest last season.People tuned in.The Cats were No.1 one in the league in home television viewing on TSN last season, attracting 452,000 average viewers.

The numbers show no sign of abating this season.The club expects to sell more than 18,000 season tickets,up from the 17,206 sold last season.

The release of an early CFL schedule,the acquisition of star quarterback Jason Maas, the re-signing of Canadian receiver Brock Ralph and the hiring of new offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao have all helped sales.

But remember,this franchise went bankrupt in 2003.With just a few months before the start of the 2006 campaign,Young 's club appears to be on the verge of selling out every single game in 29,600-seat Ivor Wynne,which in turn is falling apart,re-quiring some $15 million in repairs.

Young suggests he is not surprised that success has come so fast.

"It was certainly do-able.We had done our homework.We couldn 't see any reason why we couldn 't get there.Having said that, we 're absolutely thrilled with the progress that we 're making and we 're thrilled with the reception we 've had in the community." Young said the Cats will prove a hotter ticket this summer for one key reason;the club will field a much more talented squad than the 5-13 team from 2005.

Oleskiw thinks he knows why the Cats have become a hot ticket that 's getting hotter by the day.

"When Bob Young took over he came in and he didn 't blame the fans for not attending.I think that was a big key.He said if they don't go,it 's not their fault,it 's my fault,"

Oleskiw recalled.

Bob Irving has seen a lot in his 32 years of covering the Canadian Football League.But the veteran play-by-play announcer of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers admits he has never witnessed such a phenomenon as the Hamilton football turnaround.

Irving said his lasting memory of travelling to Hamilton to call Bomber games was a crowd of anywhere from 13,000 to 18,000. "I thought the market was dead.And what Bob Young has done is stunning.It 's absolutely stunning that he could get that many people to come back that fast.To me that 's just shocking," Irving said."It 's astonishing that he could get that many people back in and not necessarily through a dramatically improved product or an exciting player like a Doug Flutie.Just by marketing,relating better to the fans ... ..he 's a bloody genius," Irving said yesterday.

Marvin Ryder,a lecturer of marketing and entrepreneurship at McMaster University, doesn 't call Young a genius.But he believes the multi-millionaire computer software entrepreneur has done a brilliant job of re-connecting with Hamilton football fans.

"He isn't here a lot but when he is here he is like a political candidate.He has a whole series of speeches and luncheons and dinners and kissing babies and shaking hands.I 'm sure he instills it in his staff to take that same
kind of diligence to make sure fans are enjoying themselves,they feel like they are getting value for their dollars,"Ryder said. "This becomes a positive momentum. Fans enjoy it,they talk it up,it 's easier to get sponsors who create more enjoyable things, who attract corporations ..."

Went to my first game in Hamilton last year and was very impressed. Great crowd, very into their team. Everyone is wearing ticats gear and were very knowledgable. Even though we were wearing esks garb we had no problem striking up conversations with those around us about football and stuff in general. Loved the grassroots atmosphere, families came together and then the kids would run back and forth from their families' seats to those of their friends, all with the framiliarity of the team having been here for a good while. Am definately going to go to a few more games this coming year.

With the improvements Hamilton has done on the field so far, I'm not surprised that ticket sales have gone up for this season.If I were a Hamilton fan, I would be very happy on what has gone on in the off season so far I like how they've upgraded their team. Watch out, they could be a real surprise in the East this year!

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are set to pounce.

In six days, the Tabbies will join eight other Canadian Football League franchises in bidding for some of the best, most expensive talent available.

As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 all free agent players can sign with the highest bidders.

Club owner Bob Young vows the Ticats will be a major player in the league's annual player signing sweepstakes. The Cats will dangle some serious cash in a bid to woo some of the most talented players on the free agent market to display their wares in front of Ivor Wynne Stadium crowds this summer.

The club owner credits renewed fan support at Ivor Wynne Stadium, where the team averaged 28,002 last season -- it's highest in three decades -- for giving the franchise the financial clout to lure some of the league's best.

Edmonton receiver Jason Tucker, B.C. linebacker Barrin Simpson, Ottawa running back Josh Ranek and Ottawa guard George Hudson are all expected to be on the Ticat radar.

"Our fans have increased the budget our football team has to spend on players," Young said in a telephone interview.

The Cats grabbed just two free agents last season but expect the re-tooling Tabbies to be much more active next week.

"Everything about the Ticats will be more aggressive this year compared to last. The lesson we learned is that you cannot play status quo in the CFL. If you are not dramatically improving your team, then by definition your team is going backwards compared to the other teams," Young said.

"And we're hoping to be that much more successful (in the free agent market)."

And while Marshall has suggested the club's 2006 target is to be able to host a post-season contest, there seems to be a sense the Ticats may be loading up in a bid to represent the east at the Nov. 19 Grey Cup match in Winnipeg.

The off-season acquisition of former Edmonton star quarterback Jason Maas and the re-signing of Canadian star receiver Brock Ralph as well as the hiring of new offensive co-ordinator Joe Paopao are all important building blocks for the road to the Manitoba capital. But some key free agent signings could signal that the 5-13 Cats of 2005 are back in a big way.

At the same time, Young insists a national championship is less of an ambition than continuing to attract fans to Ivor Wynne.

Man, would I love us to get to the 20,000 season ticket mark this year. Probably not possible but maybe with one more signing, just maybe. But may have to wait until they do the 3 year traditions club thing again. But we're close, expecting in the 18,000 + range anyway.

Good post DG.

Hamilton is doing all the right things.

Hello Wally! Are you paying attention?