Brantford considers relocation agreement with OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs

The Hamilton Bulldogs are a step away from moving to Brantford for the next three seasons amid a major renovation set for FirstOntario Centre in the fall.

In a release on Tuesday, the city of Brantford revealed talks with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise for an agreement which would not only relocate the team but involve a renaming and investment for upgrades to the city’s Civic Centre.

A proposal, to be considered by Brantford councillors in a meeting on Feb. 7, calls for an estimated $7.5 million in upgrades to the city’s arena — with some of the spend coming from the Bulldogs ownership.

Read more: Hamilton Bulldogs owner ‘shocked’ team will need new home for two seasons amid FirstOntario reno

A staff report is recommending council approve the move and renovations be funded via a casino reserve fund.

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Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis told Global News the arrangement would see the city contribute some $3 million towards the upgrades, with no impact to taxpayers.

“These renovations and upgrades we’re looking at, some of them should have been done long ago,” Davis said.

“This is going to be the catalyst for doing that.”

Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer says the venture is a “win-win” since it’s opportunity to extend the brand to Brantford and provide a feasible alternative venue for players and fans considering it’s a short drive.

“When you consider that Brantford is literally a 20 minute drive from Ancaster High, where some of our players go to school or billet, … and then a lot of our fans actually live up on the Mountain, it creates a bit of a win-win situation,” Andlauer told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.

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He says the municipality reached out to the team just 72 hours after a November announcement saying the team would be seeking a new home for two seasons after organizers of a rehabilitation for FirstOntario could not allow hockey to continue during renovations.

The current capacity of the Brantford and District Civic Centre, built in 1967, is 3,000 seats.

Read more: Change to Hamilton’s FirstOntario modernization plan will likely mean new construction start date

Andlauer says despite having some good sightlines, the venue will need safety upgrades, larger player benches and a new video scoreboard.

The “Brantford Bulldogs” would begin play in 2023 for a three-year term, with the option of three additional one-year renewals, according to the proposal.

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Mayor Andrea Horwath expressed “disappointment” that the team was not able to make arrangements to stay within’ the municipality but says Hamilton will be support the teams transition to Brantford.

“I’m sure the City of Brantford is excited at the prospect of hosting our OHL champions for the interim, and rightfully so,” Horwath said in a statement to Global News.

“I encourage the Bulldogs and HUPEG to work on a timeline for their return to what will be a modern, state-of-the-art arena in Hamilton.”

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