After being a mainstay of Hamilton, Ontario for eighty-four years, the iconic Ivor Wynne Stadium closed its door for the last time in October 2012, and was then demolished in the months that followed to bring about an end of an era of sport in Hamilton. In its exact place, now stands Tim Hortons Field Stadium.
Built and opened just eight years ago, the 23,218-seat stadium is one of the newest stadiums in Canada, but has been making up for the lost time by being the home to many of the, biggest and most important, sporting events in Canada over the last decade. Home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Forge FC, this is the story of the short, yet eventful, history of Tim Horton’s Field.
The demolition of Ivor Wynne and subsequent construction of Tim Hortons Field meant that the Ti-Cats were forced to play home games on a temporary basis in Guelph and at the local university, McMaster. After a season and a half of playing games in Alumni Stadium (Guelph) and at Ron Joyce Stadium (McMaster University), the Tiger-Cats opened their new stadium on September 1st, 2014 against their eternal rivals, the Toronto Argonauts.
Ongoing construction restricted the 23,218 seat stadium to just 18,000 fans on opening day, but the passionate and loud home crowd was treated to a win to open the stadium, with Ti-Cats quarterback Zach Collaros throwing for 317 yards and one touchdown in a tight and memorable 13-12 victory, with Hamilton wide receiver Bakari Grant catching the first-ever touchdown at the new stadium. Since 2014, the Ti-Cats have been perfect in what is usually the biggest regular-season game of their season, winning seven consecutive Labour Day Classics against the Argos.
Shortly into the stadium’s life, Tim Horton’s Field was building a reputation as a premier soccer stadium in Canada. In March 2015, the Canadian Woman’s National Soccer Team team played a friendly against England as part of warming up for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup that Canada was hosting. Against the number two side in the world at the time, Canada’s Sophie Schmidt scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for John Herdman’s side. Whilst England got revenge against Canada at the 2015 World Cup Quarter-Final stage in Vancouver, the crowd of 23,197 at Tim Hortons was the largest crowd ever for a soccer game in Hamilton, paving the way for what was to come for the city.
While the World Cup was happening, the Pan-American games were being hosted in Toronto. With Toronto’s BMO Stadium being used for rugby, Tim Horton’s was again allowed to shine as a soccer venue, hosting thirty-two games, with Uruguay winning the men’s tournament, and Brazil winning the woman’s version.
The stadium is ultimately a football stadium, and was quickly becoming a venue for the big occasion. Just months into its existence, the Ti-Cats, by virtue of winning the CFL’s East Division we’re able to host the 2014 CFL East Final against the Montreal Alouettes. In front of a capacity crowd of 24,334, the Ti-Cats convincingly won 40-24 to make it to the Grey Cup. It was the first time Hamilton has hosted the East Final since 1998.
At the collegiate football level, Tim Horton’s was selected as the host venue for both the 2016 and 2017 Vainer Cup finals, with both finals being eventful. The Calgary Dinos faced off against Laval Rouge et Or in 2016 in what was a closely fought final. Down 26-24 late in the fourth quarter, Laval rallied to put together a late game-winning drive and win the game by a score of just 31-26. Laval returned to the final the following year against the Western Mustangs in a game that pitted two of Canadian collegiate football’s biggest powerhouses against each other. In front of a crowd of 10,754, Laval failed to repeat as Western won 39-17 to be Vanier Cup champions for the first time since 1994!
Alongside football and soccer, the stadium has also been a rugby venue for the Canadian national team when they played the U.S.A. in a World Cup Qualifier in June 2017. After historically dominating their southern rivals, Canada went into this game in the midst of a five-game losing streak against the Americans. The Canucks and Americans played a tough, physical game and despite their poor recent record against the U.S, Canada pushed their opponents all the way.
Down 18-28 with just eleven minutes left, Canada responded with a try and a penalty conversion to tie the score at 28-28 to secure a draw and end their American losing streak. The crowd that day of 13,187 was at the time the fifth-highest attendance ever for a Canadian rugby game, and remains the seventh-highest to this day.
Having already hosted a multitude of soccer games, a new era for Canadian soccer was to begin, with Tim Horton’s Field set to be at the forefront of it. On July 12th, 2018, the newly established Canadian Premier League announced Forge FC of Hamilton as one of the founding teams for the league, and that Forge will play their home games at Tim Horton’s Field. Taking it one step further, the Stadium hosted the inaugural CPL game between Forge and York Nine on April 27th, 2019, marking yet another historic landmark for Tim Horton’s Field. In front of a CPL record crowd of 17,611, York’s Ryan Telfer scored the first goal in CPL history in a game that finished in a 1-1 draw.
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Forge has gone from strength to strength since that inaugural game, establishing themselves as one of the biggest names in the CPL. In their first season, Forge finished second in the overall standings and made it to the CPL finals against Cavalry. Because it was a two-legged affair, Tim Horton’s Field once again held a high-stakes sporting event as 10,486 fans were in attendance for a 1-1 draw in the first leg, before Forge won the second leg 1-0, becoming champions of Canada.
Their reward was qualifying for the 2019 CONCACAF League, the second-highest level of competition in the CONCACAF region. Forge played their ever continental match at home against Antigua GFC and made it to the next round, setting up a tie against the Honduran powerhouse Club Deportivo Olimpia. Despite losing the tie 4-2 on aggregate, Forge won their home game 1-0, slowly building a reputation for being tough to beat at Tim Horton’s Field.
Meanwhile, the Ti-Cats were also enjoying the comfort of playing at Tim Hortons Field. Hamilton has won five of their first six playoff games at Tim Horton’s Field, including a 36-16 win against Edmonton in the 2019 CFL East final. On February 21th 2019, Tim Horton’s Field was awarded as the host stadium for the 2021 Grey Cup, the first time Hamilton will have hosted Canadian Football’s biggest game in a quarter of a century.
After winning away at Toronto in the 2021 East Final, the Ti-Cats secured their place for a home Grey Cup for the first time since 1972. Against the Grey Cup holders and favourites the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Hamilton pushed Winnipeg all the way, scoring a game-tying field goal to make the score 25-25, only the fourth overtime game in Grey Cup history. Despite having the majority of the record 26,324 person crowd behind them, Hamilton came up just short, as Winnipeg won the game 33-25 in OT in what was one of the closest and most dramatic Grey Cups in recent memory. Hamilton will again host the Grey Cup in 2023.
In 2021, Forge were continuing to bring big occasions to Tim Horton’s Field, having again won the CPL Final in 2020, Forge again qualified for the CONCACAF League and went on a historic run. Forge won at home against C.D. FAS, tied against Independiente and against Santos de Guápiles. Forge also overturned a 3-1 away leg deficit by winning 3-0 at Tim Hortons Field, reaching the CONCACAF League Semi-Final and qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League, becoming the first CPL team to qualify for the tournament.
To end 2021, Tim Horton’s would host two big occasions. Firstly, an entertaining CONCACAF League Semi-Final between Forge and F.C. Motagua that finished 2-2 (Forge were eventually knocked eliminated in goal difference), and then the 2021 CPL final which was now a one-game event. It was Forge’s second CPL playoff game at home after beating York the following week, and despite being favourites, Vancouver Island outfit Pacific FC became only the second-ever team to win the CPL, stunning the home crowd by winning 1-0.
Going into 2022, the Tim Horton’s Field continued to be home to historic Canadian sporting moments. On January 30th, the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team played arguably their most important ever game against the Americans in a 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier. At stake was the first place in the CONCACAF final eight qualification table – and one foot in Qatar as a result if John Herdman (now in charge of the men’s team) could record a win.
Despite only being 50 percent full due to COVID restrictions, the crowd of 12,000 made themselves heard at the first-ever Men’s National Team game in Hamilton. Goals from Cyle Larin and Sam Adekugbe gave Les Rouges a famous 2-0 victory over the Americans. Shortly after, Forge played host to Mexican side Cruz Azul, Cruz won 1-0 in what was the first-ever CONCACAF Champions League game played at a CPL stadium.
So far we’ve talked about outdoor sports held at Tim Hortons Field like Rugby and football. But there’s still one more sport that has held the spotlight at Hamilton’s sporting cathedral; ice hockey. On September 16th, 2021, Tim Horton’s Field was announced as the host venue for the 2022 NHL Heritage Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, bringing the National Hockey League back to the city of Hamilton after an absence of nearly thirty years. A total of 26,119 fans were in attendance to see Buffalo rally from 2-1 to defeat the Leafs 5-2 and just a day later, Hamiltonians were treated to another outdoor game, when the hometown Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL defeated the Oshawa Generals 3-0 in the 2022 Outdoor Showcase Game.
Tim Hortons Field is only eight years old, yet has hosted many high-profile sporting occasions that most stadiums would be lucky to host over the course of a lifetime. The correlating success of its tenants, Forge FC and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have allowed Tim Horton’s Field to host many important fixtures, giving the stadium the platform required to impress onlookers and give it the chance to host one-off occasions such as Finals and Canadian national sporting events.
Up next for the stadium is the rearranged 2020 Canadian Championship Final between Forge and Toronto FC on June 4th, where once again Forge will be aiming to become the first CPL team to win the Canadian Championship, and create even more history at Tim Hortons Field in the process!
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