FirstOntario Centre

Coordinates: 43°15′33″N 79°52′21″W / 43.25917°N 79.87250°W / 43.25917; -79.87250
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

FirstOntario Centre
The interior of FirstOntario Centre in December 2018
FirstOntario Centre is located in Ontario
FirstOntario Centre
FirstOntario Centre
Location within Ontario
FirstOntario Centre is located in Canada
FirstOntario Centre
FirstOntario Centre
Location within Canada
Former namesCopps Coliseum (1985–2014)
Address101 York Boulevard
LocationHamilton, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°15′33″N 79°52′21″W / 43.25917°N 79.87250°W / 43.25917; -79.87250
OwnerCity Of Hamilton
OperatorCore Entertainment (HUPEG and Oak View Group)
CapacityHockey: 17,383
Concerts 19,000
Field size200 x 85 feet (expandable to 200 x 100)
Broke groundJuly 8, 1983; 40 years ago (July 8, 1983)[1]
OpenedNovember 30, 1985; 38 years ago (November 30, 1985)[5]
Renovated2024 - Completion
Construction costC$42.7 million
($96 million in 2021 dollars[2])
ArchitectParkin Architects Ltd.
Sink Combs Dethlefs[3]
Project managerSTERRY Support Services Ltd.
Structural engineerJohn A. Martin & Associates[4]
General contractorPigott 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
Hamilton Honey Badgers (CEBL) 2019–2022
Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) 2015–2023
Toronto Rock (NLL) 2021–present

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


Hamilton was left without a large ice hockey venue after the Barton Street Arena was demolished in 1977, and even that arena had a small seating capacity by modern standards. Construction on the new site was started in 1983 and 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 Hamiltonian Joseph Pigott.[6] The arena was originally named Copps Coliseum after long-time mayor Victor Copps, the patriarch of a Hamilton political family that 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 was purchased from the Winnipeg Arena for $214,000. That original Day Signs/Naden scoreboard, built in Toronto, was replaced in the early-1990s by a centre-hung scoreboard with an electronic message centre on each side, which, in return was replaced by the current scoreboard, which was built in Hamilton by Media Resources, 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 (OHL) began play at the arena in 1985. The 1986 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships were held in Southern Ontario, with Copps Coliseum used as the primary venue. In a decisive game, the undefeated Soviet Union handed Canada its first loss, 4–1. Copps was the primary host for the 1987 Canada Cup, and the site of the famous Gretzky to Lemieux goal that beat the Soviets 6–5 in the final. The Dukes of Hamilton replaced the Steelhawks as the city's OHL team and played in Copps Coliseum from 1989 to 1991. The arena hosted the 1990 Memorial Cup and set the single game attendance record, on May 13, 1990, with 17,383 spectators watching the Oshawa Generals defeat the Kitchener Rangers, in the final, 4–3 in double overtime on a Bill Armstrong goal. The venue hosted a number of games in the 1991 Canada Cup, including the finals, when Canada defeated the United States.

The first WWF Royal Rumble, which was shown on the USA Network, was held in the arena on January 24, 1988. Copps hosted the WWF pay-per-view Breakdown: In Your House on September 27, 1998, and the Billy Graham crusade that year, attended by 19,000 spectators each night. The Grateful Dead played the Coliseum on four occasions, with two dates in 1990 and two dates in 1992.

In November 2022, it was announced that beginning in the late summer of 2023, the arena would close for 20 months due to renovations. This will force the Bulldogs and Rock to relocate for all of the 2023–24 season and most of the 2024–25 season.[7] As a result of the closure, the Honey Badgers decided to permanently relocate to Brampton, Ontario.[8] The Bulldogs rebranded as the Brantford Bulldogs and will play home games at the Brantford Civic Centre. The renovations were delayed until December 2023 to allow the Rock to play their first couple games of the 2023-24 season at the arena, before moving to the Paramount Fine Foods Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.[9] This was also to allow 5 Cirque du Soleil performances at the arena before its closing. However, in September 2023, it was announced that renovation would be delayed and that the Toronto Rock will play the entirety of the 2023/24 season in Hamilton before relocating to Mississauga for the 2024/25 season.[10]


The Hamilton Skyhawks debuted with a 101–99 win over the Halifax Windjammers in World Basketball League play, in 1992. The league folded during the season, and several Canadian teams, including the Skyhawks formed the National Basketball League for 1993, but the Hawks moved to Edmonton for the playoffs, then folded.

The Coliseum was host 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 (1995–96 and 1996–97), prior to the completion of construction on their new home the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Raptors played three regular season games at Copps Coliseum,[11] as well as a preseason game in 1997.[12] In 1998 a strange twist of scheduling conflicts led the Toronto Raptors to play their final regular season game in Hamilton, as the Toronto Blue Jays had first right of refusal for all SkyDome dates. The Raptors had attempted to play the April 19 match at Maple Leaf Gardens, but were unsuccessful.[13]

AHL and OHL[edit]

The American Hockey League expanded to Copps in 1992 in the form of Vancouver's affiliate, the Hamilton Canucks. After two seasons, the team was moved to Syracuse, where they became one of the league's most stable[further explanation needed] franchises.

In October 1996, Copps Coliseum 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 Copps Coliseum, defeating the Hershey Bears.

In 2015, Montreal moved its AHL affiliate to St. John's,[14] and the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls moved to Hamilton to carry the Bulldogs banner, and Hamilton's traditional black and yellow colours, in the junior league.[15] The Bulldogs are the primary tenant in the facility.

NHL ambitions[edit]

Copps Coliseum was built to National Hockey League capacity and specifications in the hope that it would allow Hamilton to acquire an NHL expansion franchise. However, the city is less than 50 miles from the home arenas of two NHL franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, both of which have opposed an NHL franchise in Hamilton. Copps hosted 8 regular-season neutral-site games during the 1992–93 and 1993–94 seasons, mostly featuring the Maple Leafs or Sabres.

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 Copps Coliseum as a temporary home while a new state-of-the-art arena could be built, or to renovate the Coliseum to bring it up to modern NHL standards. The bid was 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.[16] Balsillie applied for a lease option which, should the relocation have succeeded, would have invoked a 20-year lease for the team to play at Copps Coliseum.[17][18] 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.[19] The team moved to Winnipeg in 2011, becoming the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets instead. On May 13, 2009, The Canadian Press reported on that Balsillie won the exclusive rights to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum 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 an NHL franchise coming to Hamilton.[20] It is unknown whether these renovations will come to fruition since Balsillie 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, Copps Coliseum was identified as the proposed site for the volleyball competition for the Games, but it 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. A smaller sign reading "In honour of Victor K. Copps" appears to its right on the Bay side of the arena, and below it on the York side.


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


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Balsillie Picked NHL Consultant for Copps Job". The Hamilton Spectator. May 30, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  2. ^ 1688 to 1923: Geloso, Vincent, A Price Index for Canada, 1688 to 1850 (December 6, 2016). Afterwards, Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada tables 18-10-0005-01 (formerly CANSIM 326-0021) "Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted". Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 17, 2021. and table 18-10-0004-13 "Consumer Price Index by product group, monthly, percentage change, not seasonally adjusted, Canada, provinces, Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit". Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  3. ^ "Awards". Sink Combs Dethlefs. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. 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. ^ "Opinion | Teams angry FirstOntario Centre renos will displace them for two seasons". The Hamilton Spectator. November 12, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  8. ^ "Honey Badgers leave Hamilton for Brampton after being forced out of FirstOntario Centre, CEBL says". CBC News. November 28, 2022. Retrieved November 28, 2022.
  10. ^ "Toronto Rock Will Play Upcoming Season in Hamilton From Start to Finish".
  11. ^ Jia, James (April 18, 2013). "Raptors Wrap Up Season with Best Attendance in 4 Years". Xinhua. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  12. ^ Smith, Doug (October 25, 1997). "Raptors in Too Deep Against Nuggets". Toronto Star.
  13. ^ "Raptors Move Final Game to Hamilton". Associated Press. January 7, 1998.
  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.
  16. ^ "Jim Balsillie Puts in Offer on Phoenix Coyotes". TSN. May 6, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  17. ^ "Statement on Copps Coliseum NHL Lease Option" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 14, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  18. ^ "Jim Balsillie statement on NHL in Hamilton" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 13, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  19. ^ Shoalts, David (May 9, 2009). "Hamilton Mayor Only Focused on Balsillie". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
  20. ^ "Jim Balsillie Unveils Dramatic Revitalization for Copps Coliseum" (Press release). Veritas Communications Inc. May 29, 2009. Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved May 29, 2009.

External links[edit]