TORONTO — The Grey Cup returns in 2021, but attending the contest won’t come cheaply.
Tickets to the game, which will be held Dec. 12 at Tim Hortons Field, went on sale Tuesday to the general public. There’s reportedly less than 5,000 seats available for the contest and, although CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie couldn’t provide a specific number, he fully expects the game will be a sellout.
This will mark the first Grey Cup game played in Hamilton since 1996 and seating capacity at Tim Hortons Field will be capped at 24,000 due to provincial COVID-19 guidelines. Originally, the plan was to expand capacity to 33,000 with the addition of temporary seating.
“I think Hamilton itself is ready to host the party,” Ambrosie said Tuesday. “We’re expecting there’s going to be a lot of Grey Cup (celebrating) going on.
“It might be a little different than it’s been in the past but we’re expecting it to be a great party. We’re pouring everything we possibly can at Grey Cup day itself and everything around the game . . . to make sure Grey Cup 108 is memorable.”
The CFL stated Tuesday its Grey Cup tickets range from $99 to $577 for premium-level seats. But according to Ticketmaster, all of the $99 tickets appear to have been sold already.
At the 2019 Grey Cup game in Calgary, tickets ranged from $119 to $419. The year before in Edmonton the cheapest ticket was $99 while the most expensive was around $325.
Then again, seating capacity at Commonwealth Stadium was over 55,000. Calgary’s McMahon Stadium has roughly 35,650 permanent seats.
The CFL didn’t hold a Grey Cup game in 2020 as it opted against staging a season due to the global pandemic. And while the league resumed play in 2021, it adopted an abbreviated 14-game season — four less than normal — along with COVID-19 testing for players, coaches and football personnel.
The limitations created by the pandemic have also resulted in the league taking more responsibility for this year’s game. Earlier this month, the CFL awarded Hamilton the 2023 Grey Cup, with the hope the city can then stage a more normal championship game.
“A lot of the responsibility has fallen to the league but ultimately this is going to work because it’s an excellent collaboration between the CFL and the Ticats organization,” Ambrosie said. “It continues to be, as it always has been, a collaboration as there’s no way that the league office can pull this off.
“I will say this is more of a CFL game this year than it would be under normal circumstances but we’re relying really heavily on the great team in Hamilton. But I think a lot of credit goes to Duane Vienneau (CFL’s Chief Grey Cup and Events Officer) and his team and their ability to collaborate.”
Ambrosie said the sentiment of the CFL board was both Regina and Hamilton deserved the opportunity to stage Grey Cup games under more normal circumstances. Originally, Regina was slated to hold the 2020 contest, followed by Hamilton this year, but Saskatchewan was given the 2022 contest because no football was played in 2020.
“If I go back to 2018 when we had both Hamilton and Saskatchewan awarded Grey Cups, it was because their bids were literally spectacular,” Ambrosie said. “I think the governors recognized that to be fair to them, they weren’t going to be able to fulfil the opportunity that they had created in their bids.”
While the Ontario government has loosened its pandemic restrictions, the expectation is some of the original Grey Cup plans regarding festival events in Hamilton won’t be held until 2023.
“The biggest challenge is event planning is built around the need for time to execute and obviously the big issue that we faced is that with the uncertainty of what would be and wouldn’t be allowed,” Ambrosie said. “The planning cycle for this year’s Grey Cup and all of the festivities has been dramatically shorter.
“What it’s meant for every single element of Grey Cup is that we’ve had to delay and hold back the specific planning around the various events. That’s probably been the toughest thing the team has faced but on a positive note I think we’re going to see a tremendous Grey Cup in Hamilton. We’re calling an audible here, which thankfully is a very convenient football term, and I think we’re going to see a lot of organic Grey Cup.”