Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Tim Hortons Field
64 Melrose Ave. N
Hamilton, ON L8L 8C1
Year Opened: 2014
Lighting the Forge
In 2018, the Canadian Premier League took the pitch for the inaugural season, planting the new league as the top tier of professional soccer in Canada, outside of the three teams that play in Major League Soccer. Bob Young, the “Caretaker” of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League was instrumental in the formation of the new league.
The CPL features a quota for Canadian players with the goal being to develop more Canadian soccer players. Bob Young would take the helm of one of the inaugural teams, Forge FC, which is owned by Young’s Hamilton Sports Group and play in the home of the Tiger-Cats, Tim Hortons Field. Located on the same spot where the iconic Ivor Wynne Stadium once stood, Tim Hortons Field opened in 2014 and has one of the largest capacities in the CPL at over 23,000. Forge FC has been the most successful team in the league, winning the league championship in 2019, 2020, and 2022.
Food & Beverage 4
Concession options at Tim Hortons Field are limited to the lower deck on the east side, but there are plenty of options to keep fans happy. The Butcher Burger Bar, Poutine Provisions, Pizza Pizza, Stipley Snacks, and Tim Hortons are all great options. Coca-cola products are the soft drink of choice at Tim Hortons Field and Tim Hortons beverages are also available. Lincoln Lager by Bench Brewing is the feature local brew, which goes along with the other macro brews. There are plenty of options and fans will be happy.
Tim Hortons Field is located in the Stipley neighbourhood of Hamilton. It is nestled into the existing neighbourhood and essentially features two large east and west grandstands on the east and west sides. The exterior is not unattractive but is fairly simplistic. The largest gathering area is at the southeast corner of the block. The team shop can be found at this corner.
Inside the stadium, the pitch runs from south to north and the main grandstand on the east side is where the majority of seating is. Club seating is on the west side, which probably gives a better view as the view from the east side has a bit of an empty feeling with the entirety of the west lower level being empty.
Forge FC markings throughout the stadium are not over the top, but not invisible. Fans will surely know that Tim Hortons Field is the home of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but they will also feel at home as Forge FC supporters. Facia on the east side features Forge banners and the “Together We Forge” mantra and markings for the 2019, 2020, and 2022 North Star Shield winners as Canadian Premier League champions are proudly displayed.
One advantage to playing in a CFL stadium is the use of the excellent video board, which stands in the north end. A pleasant surprise at Tim Hortons Field was the lack of football lines for the soccer experience, making it feel a little more professional and a little more like a genuine soccer pitch.
The gameday production for Forge FC is fairly simple, but not unlike most soccer experiences. Forge FC makes great use of the video board. The mascot, Sparx, can be found interacting with fans and traversing the crowd. The supporters section offers its entertainment with the chants and smoke that are typical at a high-level soccer match. Cheerleaders can be found on the pitch level or in the end leading the fans in support of Forge.
Tim Hortons Field is absolutely a neighbourhood stadium. Located in the Stipley neighbourhood of Hamilton, on the location of the former Ivor Wynne Stadium, Tim Hortons Field suffers from the same location issues as its predecessor. Bob Young attempted to get a different location for the stadium when negotiating with the City of Hamilton, however, the long and drawn-out process ended with no change in location, only a change in orientation.
There are not many spots for pre or post-game food or drinks near the stadium. The Capitol Bar and Festival Cafe are nearby. There are a couple of fast food options on Barton Street, but nothing too exciting. The best bet is to hop into the car or take public transit and head to Hess Village. The Gown and Gavel is a good selection as is the Lazy Flamingo. Other selections downtown include Electric Diner and Radius.
The Canadian Football Hall of Fame is located at the club level at Tim Hortons Field and is open during non-game hours. Hamilton Place and the FirstOntario Centre are the other big entertainment spots in the city, hosting concerts and other shows and they are located downtown. A must-see experience in Hamilton is the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
For those looking for other sporting experiences, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL share Tim Hortons Field with Forge FC. If lacrosse is the jam, then seeing the Toronto Rock at FirstOntario Centre is the way to go, although they will be moving to Mississauga temporarily during renovations on the arena. Also, McMaster University fields athletic teams as well.
The McMaster Marauders football team plays at Les Prince Field @ Ron Joyce Stadium and the basketball team plays at Burridge Gymnasium @ Ivor Wynne Centre. Hamilton also has an Intercounty Baseball League team the Hamilton Cardinals.
For fans needing to stay in the area, downtown is again the spot to be. The Crowne Plaza and Sheraton are good selections on King Street.
Forge FC fans are among the best in the Canadian Premier League. In the 2023 season, Forge FC have attracted an average of over 5,000 fans per match, good for 2nd in the league. In the previous season, Forge attracted almost 3,500 fans per match which was good for 4th. The Forge FC supporters group, Barton Street Battalion, is found in the northeast corner of the stadium and is loud and supportive of Forge. Unfortunately, Tim Hortons Field has a capacity of over 23,000, and even a strong attendance of over 5,000 fans still leaves a massive number of empty seats for each match.
Getting to Tim Hortons Field can be a challenge. The Stipley is far from the major highways and fans coming in from out of town will have to travel through the city. It is located east of Highway 403, west of Red Hill Parkway, and significantly south of the Queen Elizabeth Way. King and Main Streets are the main access points to the neighbourhood, but both streets being one-way, means that the traffic does flow well. Parking around Tim Hortons Field is a huge issue for football games, but for the smaller soccer crowd, it is less of an issue.
There are not too many parking lots. There are a couple that will charge $15 to $20 and some residents will sell their driveway for the evening. Getting there early to find parking is the best idea if bringing the car to Tim Hortons Field. Fans interested in tailgating should head early to the lot at Chapele and Lloyd, Parking Lot E.
The response to the parking situation is a significant public transit effort. There are several buses that travel to King, Barton, and Cannon Streets. There are some Park and Ride lots throughout the city also. Public Transit is free on Tiger-Cat game days with a valid ticket. However, the same situation is not in place for Forge FC matches. More information can be found on the HSR website.
Getting around the stadium isn’t terrible. There are many sets of stairs at Tim Hortons Field and a couple of escalators to take the pressure off of the elevators would help also. Washroom facilities are more than adequate at Tim Hortons Field.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets for Forge FC are a bit on the expensive side as compared to MLS NextPro or other CPL experiences. Tickets for Forge FC begin at $29 and go up to $50. Club seats go for $67. Parking is not too expensive and concessions are, although a bit expensive, offer high quality and variety. The action on the pitch is very good and Forge FC does what it can to produce a high-quality, professional product. Fans will have a good time at a Forge FC match.
An extra mark for the 905 Derby that Forge FC enjoys with their rival York United FC. An extra mark for the success Forge FC has enjoyed on the pitch. Forge FC has won the North Star Shield three times and the regular season championship once. They have been the Voyageurs Cup (Canadian Club) Champion Runner-Up once and participated in the CONCACAF Champions League twice.
The spark of Forge FC has helped the fledgling Canadian Premier League grab a piece of the soccer market in Canada. The CPL continues to grow and with the success Forge FC has enjoyed on the pitch, the future looks bright for both the team and league. Fans should head to Tim Hortons Field to check out Forge FC and enjoy some soccer action.