FirstOntario Centre expected to be complete in 2025 in Hamilton


Published September 22, 2023 at 1:36 pm

firstontario centre hamilton
(Anthony Urciuoli/insauga photo)

Plans to redevelop Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre will transform the arena into a hub for concerts and sports, hopefully by fall 2025.

That announcement came as part of an update to Hamilton councillors on the progress of the massive  downtown entertainment district redevelopment initiative.

In 2021, the City of Hamilton signed a 49-year agreement with HUPEG, Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group, to operate and maintain FirstOntario Centre, FirstOntario Concert Hall and Hamilton Convention Centre. The deal is expected to save taxpayers money while upgrading the area.

The renovations will make FirstOntario Centre a “world-class” venue, said Tom Pistore Oak View Group (OVG) president during an update to Hamilton City General Issues Committee on Sept. 20.

OVG is working with HUPEG on the project.

There have been legal agreement hurdles but also a lot of work behind the scenes, Pistore said.

The plan is to start work in early 2024 focusing on unfinished space in the empty concourses.

Then after The Rock lacrosse team finishes their season, the arena will be shut down with a plan to re-open in October 2025, he said.

In addition to being a home for sports teams, the renovations will provide a better venue for performers.

There will be “not just locker rooms but artists lounges,” Pistore said.

“The vision for the venue will be a retreat for live music,” said Pistore adding that live music is a “rising trend.”

firstontario centre hamilton

Renderings shared at the Sept. 20 meeting show the vision for FirstOntario Centre.

Pistore said they hoped to reveal more about the design and share renderings later this fall. The project is expected to cost around $300 million.

The planned renovations had some of arena’s main tenants, the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, CEBL’s Honey Badgers, and NLL’s Toronto Rock, looking new venues.

The Bulldogs needed an earlier commitment to accommodate their schedule and after talks decided to play their games in Brantford, said PJ Mercanti, of the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group.

The Honey Badgers found a permanent basketball home in Brampton.

The Rock, professional lacrosse team, however, have a later start and will play at their season at FirstOntario Centre.

And the Grey Cup festival, scheduled from Nov. 16 to 19 will also go ahead at the centre.

To see the full update to council, see the video here.

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