FirstOntario Centre

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FirstOntario Centre
FirstOntario Centre - Hamilton.JPG
FirstOntario Centre
Former names Copps Coliseum
Location 101 York Boulevard
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates 43°15′33″N 79°52′21″W / 43.25917°N 79.87250°W / 43.25917; -79.87250Coordinates: 43°15′33″N 79°52′21″W / 43.25917°N 79.87250°W / 43.25917; -79.87250
Owner City of Hamilton
Operator Global Spectrum Sports & Entertainment/Live Nations/Core Entertainment
Capacity Concerts: 19,000
Hockey 17,383
Field size 200 x 85 feet (expandable to 200 x 100)
Surface Multi-surface
Broke ground July 8, 1983[1]
Opened November 30, 1985[5]
Construction cost C$42.7 Million
($85.9 million in 2016 dollars[2])
Architect Parkin Architects Ltd.
Sink Combs Dethlefs[3]
Project manager STERRY Support Services Ltd.
Structural engineer John A. Martin & Associates[4]
General contractor Pigott Construction
Hamilton Steelhawks (OHL) (1985–1988)
Dukes of Hamilton (OHL) (1989–1991)
Hamilton Skyhawks (WBL/NBL) (1992-1993)
Hamilton Canucks (AHL) (1992–1994)
Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) (1996–2015)
Ontario Raiders (NLL) (1998)
Toronto Raptors (NBA) (occasional home games) (1995–1997)
Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) (2015–present)

FirstOntario Centre (originally Copps Coliseum) is a sports and entertainment arena on the corner of Bay Street North and York Boulevard in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The arena, which opened in 1985, has a capacity of up to 19,000.


Hamilton was left without a large ice hockey arena with the demolition of the Barton Street Arena in 1977, and even that arena had a relatively small seating capacity by modern standards. FirstOntario Centre was designed with a large capacity in part to lure a National Hockey League expansion franchise. Construction was started in 1983 and was completed two years later at a cost of $33.5 million, with an additional $2.3 million spent on a parking garage. The project was overseen by local Hamiltonian Joseph Pigott.[6] The arena was originally named Copps Coliseum after long-time mayor Victor Copps, the patriarch of a Hamilton political family which includes his daughter, former Member of Parliament of Canada and Member of Provincial Parliament of Ontario Sheila Copps, and wife, Geraldine, who was a long-time councillor.

The arena's first scoreboard clock was originally from the Winnipeg Arena, and was purchased for $214,000. The original Day Signs/Naden scoreboard, built in Toronto, was replaced in the mid-1990s by a centre-hung scoreboard with an electronic message centre on each side, which, in return was replaced with the current scoreboard, built in Hamilton by Media Resources and featuring a LED video board on each side.

The arena has hosted many teams and events over the years. The Hamilton Steelhawks of the Ontario Hockey League began play at the arena in 1985. The 1986 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships were held in Southern Ontario, with FirstOntario Centre used as the primary venue. In the decisive game, the Soviet Union defeated Canada 4-1. In the 1987 Canada Cup, the arena was the primary host for the tournament and was the site of Mario Lemieux's famous goal that beat the Soviets 6-5 in the decisive game. FirstOntario Centre hosted the 1990 Memorial Cup. The tournament that year recorded the highest attendance for any single Memorial Cup game, on May 13, 1990, with 17,383 spectators. In that same championship game, the Oshawa Generals defeated the Kitchener Rangers by a score of 4 to 3 in double overtime on a goal by Bill Armstrong. The arena hosted a number of games in the 1991 Canada Cup when Canada defeated USA in the finals.

The first WWF Royal Rumble, which was shown on the USA Network, was held in the arena on January 24, 1988. The arena also hosted the Billy Graham crusade that year, attended by 19,000 spectators each night.

FirstOntario Centre was built in the hope that it would allow Hamilton to acquire an NHL franchise. However, the city's location, less than 50 miles from the home arenas of two NHL franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres (both of whom which have opposed an NHL franchise in Hamilton) has proven to be an obstacle to attracting a franchise to Hamilton. Though the Centre has never been able to attract a full-time NHL tenant, it did host eight regular-season neutral-site games during the 1992–93 and 1993–94 season. Most of these games featured either the nearby Maple Leafs or Buffalo Sabres.

The Centre was one of the homes to the 1994 FIBA World Championship, along with Maple Leaf Gardens and SkyDome. The next year, the Centre hosted the FIBA Americas Championship for Women, which was won by Canada. During their first two seasons of play (1995-1997), prior to the completion of construction on their new home the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors played three regular season games at FirstOntario Centre,[7] as well as a preseason game in 1997.[8]

In October 1996, FirstOntario Centre became home to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. The Bulldogs, who were the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers (1996–2003) and the Montreal Canadiens (2002–2015), brought over 2 million fans to the arena. On June 7, 2007, the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs won their first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history at home in FirstOntario Centre, defeating the Hershey Bears.

The arena hosted the WWF pay-per-view Breakdown: In Your House on September 27, 1998.

In 2007, from March 3 to 11, FirstOntario Centre hosted the Tim Hortons Brier, the annual Canadian men's curling championship. The Centre will be hosting the West 49 Canadian Open, from September 20 to October 1.

In 2007, Waterloo billionaire Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion, made an offer to purchase the Nashville Predators for $220 Million US. His intention was to move the team to Hamilton and either use FirstOntario Centre as a temporary home while a new state-of-the-art arena could be built, or to renovate FirstOntario Centre to bring it up to modern NHL standards. The bid was ultimately unsuccessful. In the spring of 2009, the Phoenix Coyotes filed for bankruptcy and Jim Balsillie immediately offered a rumoured $212.5 Million US, while stating he wanted to move the franchise to southwestern Ontario.[9] Balsillie applied for a lease option which, should the relocation have succeed, would have invoked a 20-year lease for the team to play at FirstOntario Centre.[10][11] On May 9, 2009, the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and others reported that Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger was to meet with a second group interested in securing a lease. The group, led by Vancouver businessmen Tom Gaglardi and Nelson Skalbania, was interested in securing an interest in the Atlanta Thrashers and moving them to the Centre for the 2010-11 NHL season.[12] The team ultimately moved to Winnipeg in 2011, becoming the new incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, instead. On May 13, 2009, The Canadian Press reported on that Balsillie won the exclusive rights to Hamilton's FirstOntario Centre until November after a unanimous vote by Hamilton city council. On May 29, 2009, Balsillie unveiled his plans to renovate the Centre into a state-of-the-art facility in anticipation of a NHL franchise coming to Hamilton.[13] It's unknown whether these renovations will come to fruition since Balsillie ultimately lost his bid to buy the Coyotes.

In 2008, it was announced that the Golden Horseshoe would be bidding for the 2015 Pan American Games. On February 18, 2009, FirstOntario Centre was identified as the proposed site for the volleyball competition for the Games, though it ultimately did not host any events.

On January 3, 2014, Nitro Circus performed at the stadium for the first ever and only stop in Canada. Due to the high risk nature of their stunt based shows most North American venues will not host the events.

On January 27, 2014, Hamilton City council voted unanimously to approve a $3.5-million deal to rename Copps Coliseum after local credit union First Ontario. The city unveiled the new look signage, FirstOntario Centre, later that spring.

On March 12, 2015, Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer announced that he had sold the team back to the Canadiens, who would move the team to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador for the 2015–16 season as the second incarnation of the St. John's IceCaps.[14] Concurrently, Andlauer announced his acquisition of the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls, and that the team would be moved to Hamilton and adopt the Bulldogs name.[15] The Bulldogs are the primary tenant in the facility.


In 1990 and again in 1992, the Copps Coliseum hosted several performances by the Grateful Dead. On March 22, 1990 at the venue, the band played one of its most flawlessly executed late versions of Scarlet-Fire, and the concert was later chronicled in the box set Spring 1990.

The popstar Britney Spears had performed here three times. The first time occurred in July 13, 1999 during her ...Baby One More Time Tour, the second in June 25, 2002 during the Dream Within a Dream Tour and again on August 20, 2009 during The Circus Starring Britney Spears.

The Tragically Hip have played 10 shows at Copps Coliseum.

Marilyn Manson performed at the arena on October 20, 2003 during the Grotesk Burlesk Tour for their album The Golden Age of Grotesque.

On December 30, 2012, FirstOntario Centre hosted the final show by St. Catharines natives Alexisonfire.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Balsillie Picked NHL Consultant for Copps Job". The Hamilton Spectator. May 30, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2011. 
  2. ^ Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada. "Consumer Price Index, historical summary". CANSIM, table (for fee) 326-0021 and Catalogue nos. 62-001-X, 62-010-X and 62-557-X. And Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly) (Canada) Last modified 2016-01-22. Retrieved March 2, 2016
  3. ^ "Awards". Sink Combs Dethlefs. Retrieved September 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Entertainment". John A. Martin & Associates. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Hall, Dave (November 30, 1985). "A Major League Gamble Rolls Today". Windsor Star. Retrieved September 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ Hemsworth, Wade (March 28, 2006). "Hamilton Spectator: "The Greatest Hamiltonian" (II)". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved February 11, 2007. 
  7. ^ Jia, James (April 18, 2013). "Raptors Wrap Up Season with Best Attendance in 4 Years". Xinhua. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ Smith, Doug (October 25, 1997). "Raptors in Too Deep Against Nuggets". Toronto Star. 
  9. ^ "Jim Balsillie Puts in Offer on Phoenix Coyotes". TSN. May 6, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Statement on Copps Coliseum NHL Lease Option" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 14, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Jim Balsillie statement on NHL in Hamilton" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 13, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ Shoalts, David (May 9, 2009). "Hamilton Mayor Only Focused on Balsillie". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Jim Balsillie Unveils Dramatic Revitalization for Copps Coliseum" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 29, 2009. Retrieved May 29, 2009. 
  14. ^ "The Montreal Canadiens announce the transfer of the Hamilton Bulldogs to St.John's, Newfoundland". Montreal Canadiens. March 12, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Hamilton Bulldogs sell AHL franchise, buy the OHL Belleville Bulls". CBC News. Retrieved March 12, 2015. 

External links[edit]