The most interesting piece of City Hall business this week will likely be the debate about Ivor Wynne Stadium, home of the Tiger-Cats and not much else, holding two outdoor concerts in its final year.
The Tiger-Cats are requesting to hold two concerts and Council’s emergency and community services committee will debate the matter Monday afternoon.
If approved, Hamilton maybe could sorta likely see our first big concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium since RUSH played in 1979 as quarter-century long concert ban took effect.
The endless concert ban debate
The ban is nearly 40 years old and it seems it’s been contentious for half of its existence. Since the mid-90s, there have been attempts to hold concerts at the stadium, and some of these attempts have even secured permission from City Council only to realize some other obstacles or the delay in approval met it was all for naught – the concerts just haven’t happened. (Blue Rodeo played after a Tiger-Cats game in 2001, but only for an hour with no opening act)
RUSH was the only concert held at the venue after the concert to end all concerts – literally.
The infamous concert to end all concerts – 1975 Pink Floyd
1975’s Pink Floyd concert packed a record of about 55,000 fans into the stadium (by comparison, the Labour Day classic draws about 30,000 people to fill the stands) for the final show of the band’s tour that year.
(Trivia: the cost of a Pink Floyd ticket in 1975 was a then-steep $8.50.)
With extra pyrotechnics built up over the tour that needed to be used, the band burned down the house – while the scoreboard actually. Neighbours complained about noise, litter, drinking, public sex and drug use, and urinating in public. There were no violent incidents but Bernie Price, a St. John Ambulance first-aid tent attendant during the 1975 concert, told Council in 1999 that 125 patients were sent to hospital and many more treated on site.
City Council approved a ban on Ivor Wynne concerts after the public outcry.
(Concerts in those days were almost exclusively for youth; hippies who now drive mini-vans.)
The ban on big concerts held firm until near the turn-of-the-century. In 1999, it was cracked slightly with a lengthy debating resulting in razor-thin approval for a Bee Gees concert. However, the approval took so long, the concert couldn’t be organized in time.
Since that time, the debate has continued:
- 1975 – Pink Floyd plays Ivor Wynne, mayhem follows, Council votes to ban outdoor concerts
- 1979 – RUSH plays Ivor Wynne, there is no record of discord.
- 1995 – having just averted bankruptcy, the Tiger-Cats asks Council for the right to hold concerts. Ward 3 Alderman Bernie Morelli is among those opposed and the idea goes nowhere.
- May 1999 – The Morgan Firestone Foundation flouts holding a fundraising concert with The Bee Gees as headliners. The two ward Alderman oppose the idea with Morelli saying bluntly, “Over my dead body”. The parks and recreation committee votes 4-3 to make an exception to the band, the recommendation goes to Council. Morelli, who chairs the committee, votes against.
- June 1999 – Council, after much debate and delay, approves a one-time lifting of the ban to allow a The Bee Gees fundraising concert by the Morgan Firestone Foundation for August of that year.
The vote at Council? A razor-thin 9-7. Mayor Bob Morrow and his assistant, now-Ward 8 councillor, Terry Whitehead, successfully lobbied Terry Anderson to switch his vote to being in favour. Had they not, the motion would’ve fallen on a 8-8 tie vote.
However, due to the lengthy process of approval, organizers are forced to cancel the event.
- December 2000 – Mayor-elect Bob Wade – the first mayor of the amalgamated Hamilton – says he’s willing to hear a business case for concerts at Ivor Wynne but it must secure support from stadium neighbours
- March 2001 – A report by Colliers commissioned by the Transition Board recommends allowing open-air concerts and other summer events at Ivor Wynne. Council considers the report and approves a one-time trial outdoor concert, officially lifting the quarter-century ban.
- December 2001 – Morelli loses 9-3 as Council votes to allow HECFI to book concerts. Morelli wanted Council to vote on each concert in the future.
- Summer 2002 – HECFI was reportedly looking to book either Garth Brooks or the touring combination of Billy Joel/Elton John.
- April 2008 – Live Nation Canada considered booking a August 23 show date for the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill tour. City staff said the stadium required $400,000 in modifications for the show and the idea was shelved. Ward 3 Councillor Bernie Morelli stated at the time he was not opposed to a ‘middle-of-the-road’ act provided the concert was “respectful” to the neighbourhood. The concert was not approved.
- Now: Hamilton Tiger-Cats request approval for two concerts on Saturday September 22nd 2012 and Saturday October 6th 2012 for a flat fee of $25,000 per event.
The first and final concerts of the modern eraConcert seating for the events will be limited to sections 21 to 30 of the south stands and some field seating.
It’s unknown who the acts will be, or the ticket price range.
The E&CS meeting starts at 1:30pm and can be watched live by clicking here.
What act do you want to see headline a IWS concert?
I asked Friday evening on Twitter and many people joined the conversation. From the conversation, I’ve created a Facebook Poll to gag opinion. (I’ve also been looking for a chance to experiment)
Take a look below and the suggestions, then vote for or add your favourite.
Hamilton City Council is considering not one – but two! – concerts at IWS this yr. RUSH better be one of them, who should be the other?
Note: Inquiries were sent to various parties for comment. Likely due to it being Mother’s Day, replies were not received prior to publication.
— JC —