Under pall of transit strike, Grey Cup festivities touch down in Hamilton


Published November 14, 2023 at 12:33 pm

Grey Cup Hamilton football HMCS ship football CFL
The Grey Cup arrives in Hamilton on Monday (Nov. 13) onboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf. COURTESY OF CITY OF HAMILTON

The weeklong Grey Cup celebrations have hit the streets of Hamilton amid the frustrations of a city in the grip of a transit strike.

The Grey Cup arrived in Hamilton on Monday (Nov. 13) onboard His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes, who will face off during the 110th championship game on Sunday, also landed in Hamilton that day.

The most anticipated event of Canadian football comes as striking Hamilton Street Railway workers have shut down the City’s transit service, except for the accessible DARTS vehicles, since Nov. 9. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 has threatened to block Grey Cup shuttles operating within the city during the strike.

The City of Hamilton says it has nothing to do with the free shuttle buses (operated by festival organizers), given that Hamilton’s 880 transit workers are on strike.

“I can assure since the onset … of the strike, the city has made no efforts to secure alternative transportation,” Carlyle Khan, acting City manager, told reporters Monday (Nov. 14). “What you see is the Grey Cup organizers and the CFL and other private entities that made arrangements and the City has nothing to do with that.”

Hamilton expects a “significant economic impact” from the Grey Cup Festival and the championship game in the city, projecting it could break last year’s record of $67.8 million in Regina. 

Sport Tourism Canada’s study found the 109th Grey Cup and 2022 Grey Cup Festival in Regina added $25.7 million to Saskatchewan’s GDP, including $22.8 million in wages and salaries in Canada through 388 jobs.

Ryan McHugh, manager of tourism and events at the City of Hamilton, said Regina reported over 200,000 attendees over the six-day festival during a full lineup of activities.

“It is likely that the 2023 Grey Cup festival here in Hamilton will surpass this impressive figure,” he told reporters Monday (Nov. 13) during a virtual press conference.   

The festival will “showcase Hamilton’s community spirit, bringing together local businesses, artists, volunteers and the broader community for an incredible experience that goes way beyond the football field,” McHugh added.

Grey Cup Hamilton CFL football

The arrival of the Grey Cup marks the start of festivities leading up to the Nov. 19 110th championship game in Hamilton. COURTESY OF CITY OF HAMILTON

From Nov. 13 to 19, the festival will have more than 40 events – mostly free – for football fans and families.

Fan Central will be the epicentre of the festival on James Street North, offering interactive activities, food, art installations and games.  Concerts include local artists and global stars such as country singer Carrie Underwood at FirstOntario Centre and reggae legend Shaggy at the OLG Stage in Niagara Falls.

Global punk rock stars Green Day will headline the Grey Cup halftime show during the sold-out championship game on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Tim Hortons Field.

The Grey Cup Festival committee is providing free round-trip shuttle buses between Niagara Falls and Hamilton. The committee is also offering the same free service from West Harbour Go station to Tim Hortons Field before and after the game on Nov. 19 for all game ticket holders. Go will be running an extra late train from West Harbour to Union Station to accommodate fans going home.

Click here for the full schedule of events. 

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising