My name is Nick. I live about 30 minutes north of Detroit. This coming Saturday, I will be attending my first CFL game in Hamilton. I have chosen the Ticats as my team to root for. I started watching CFL games, including all of the Ticats games this season. Hamilton has some very exciting players to watch on both sides of the ball. I have even going to NFL games since I have been a little kid (season tickets for the Detroit Lions since 1980, when they originally belonged to my father).
My question to you all is....what can I expect on gameday? What are the sights I should see at the stadium? Is there a tailgate anywhere for pre-game?
Great choice for a first game Nick. A Saturday afternoon game. We don't have tailgating like the NFL - at least not in the Hammer.
I would consider finding a local watering hole for some pregame food/drinks. Any preferences? Hamilton has a wide array of food / drink options, but not a ton near the stadium - although there are options within walking/short cab distance.
I personally suggest parking further away from the stadium at a resteraunt establishment and taking cab/uber/(free shuttle, offered by many resteraunts) to the stadium.
That way you get free parking and decent pregame food / drinks. If you prefer parking early and grabbing something closer to the stadium, The Endzone Bar and Grill is a good option.
As already mentioned, there's no NFL-style tailgating.
The closest thing is fans loitering and socializing in the large parking lot E before the game. Link below claims lot E isn't sold out in advance, but I suggest phoning the Ticats ticket office and asking about availability of parking in lot E, and roughly what time you would need to get there on gameday to secure a spot without already having a pass. If you mention you're coming from out of town and not familiar with the area, maybe they'll have additional standard advice beyond what we on the forum can come up with.
If I were driving and unfamiliar with the city, I'd probably use the park-and-ride shuttle service that runs from a few of the malls in town on gameday. There's not any particularly attractive bar/restaurant options within walking distance of the stadium itself. The webpage below has info on the shuttle ("Tiger-Cats Express"), but again, I'd phone the Cats to ensure the information is accurate and up to date.
There's an in-stadium "pre-game party" with live music at the south end of the stadium (Gates 1 and 2). Gates for that usually open 90 minutes before game, with the rest of the stadium opening up 30 minutes later. From the "gameday playbook" from the most recent home game: "Enjoy live music courtesy of our new in-house band, The Jackpine Band, beverages in the shadow of the Touchdown Whistle and some old fashioned BBQ eats, courtesy of the Stipley Smokehouse."
Where are you staying? If you're downtown, there's lots of restaurant/bar options before the game. Suggestions will depend on what you're looking for. Good food? Craft beer? A great patio? Most places people suggest will be on or near James St. Let us know if you've got any specific interests and i'm sure several posters here can make recommendations.
Once you're done with a pregame meal/drinks, just hop on a bus for free with your game ticket. Only a short ride from downtown. Or take a quick ~$10 Uber if you don't feel like taking the bus.