Bulldogs owner is eager to bring a new arena to Hamilton

FirstOntario centre opened Nov. 30, 1985 as Copps Coliseum as an attempt to bring an NHL team to Hamilton. 900 CHML

Hamilton Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer says it’s time for this city to build a new arena to replace the aging FirstOntario Centre.

“I would like to do something that’s relatively modern,” Andlauer said on CHML’s Scott Radley Show. “The size really doesn’t matter, as long as the experience is exceptional.”

Andlauer says his time touring Ontario and visiting other OHL arenas has made him eager to get the ball rolling on a 5,000- to 10,000-seat arena, which he expects would cost between $60 million and $100 million depending on the size and scope.

Andlauer says he would pay half and let the city decide where it goes.

“I don’t want to dictate that. I don’t know any better than the city councillors who represent the city,” Andlauer said. “You have got to do something. You can’t just keep the status quo. It doesn’t work in Hamilton.”

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Andlauer added that his offer to pay half of the cost of a new arena is far more than any other sports team in Hamilton has offered to pay for a new venue.

Andlauer says the city has been listening but has been noncommittal about getting involved in any project of this scale.

“Hamilton has created an identity through sport with the Tiger-Cats and Bulldogs. If the city doesn’t want that as part of its identification, that’s totally OK. I’ll respect that.”

The arena — formerly known as Copps Coliseum — is 32 years old and seats 17,383, much larger than the average OHL arena, which is in the 7,000-seat range. Hamilton lost its bid to host the 2018 Memorial Cup in large part to its hockey venue.

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Shortly after Hamilton lost its bid for the OHL championship tournament, city council passed on a consultant’s report which stated it would cost the city $68 million to make the necessary upgrades to FirstOntario Centre and extend its life. The city opted to just pay for maintenance and repair as needed.

Copps Coliseum opened on Nov 30, 1985, with the intent of attracting an NHL franchise, which Michael Andlauer says has always been his dream. He admits that he would be first in line if the NHL ever opened up shop in Hamilton. But the Bulldogs owner says he’s a realist, and that a modern, more intimate arena offers the best entertainment experience for the community.

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