Brantford to explore building new OHL-sized stadium in effort to lure Bulldogs into staying permanently

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The Hamilton-based hockey team is relocating to Brantford while major renovations on the FirstOntario Centre take place over the next two to three years. Photo credit: Twitter/Hamilton Bulldogs


Last week, Brantford’s City Council approved a motion to have staff explore the possibility of building a new OHL-sized arena.

A number of weeks ago it was announced that the Hamilton Bulldogs would be moving to Brantford while Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre, the arena where the Bulldogs play, is undergoing major renovations starting in late 2023.

While the renovations are only expected to last about two years, Hamilton hockey fans were concerned to hear that the Bulldogs would be renaming themselves the “Brantford Bulldogs” and that they would be leaving the door open for a more permanent arrangement with Brantford.

The memorandum of understanding between the Bulldogs and the City of Brantford has the team staying for at least three years starting September 2023, but with the option to extend the team’s stay for three additional one-year terms.

The City of Brantford has also revealed that its ultimate plan is to entice the Bulldogs into staying permanently. 

Brantford City Council took the next step in that plan by voting unanimously to have city staff explore the possibility of building a brand new 5,000-seat arena in Brantford to entice the Bulldogs to stay. 

Staff will report back to Council by December 31, 2023 with details, cost, and potential locations.

Among those hoping for a permanent arrangement is Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis.

“We’ll have the information in the fall that’ll allow us to make decisions to demonstrate to the OHL and to the Bulldogs’ ownership group that we’re serious about keeping them here and not just for three years,” he said.

The City of Brantford is already contributing $3.5 million out of the $7.5 million needed to get the Brantford Civic Centre ready for the 2023-24 Bulldogs season.

Despite the upgrades, the Civic Centre will be the smallest OHL rink in terms of fan capacity, which is why the city wants to build a bigger stadium in the hopes of getting the team to stay.

Owen Sound, currently with the smallest arena, has a 3,500-person capacity rink, while the Civic Centre can fit about 3,400 people. 

Brantford is a larger hockey market though, with a population of just over 100,000 people compared to Owen Sound’s 30,000 people population.

The Brantford Bulldogs have already seen widespread support as far as season ticket sales are concerned. 

Over 2,500 season tickets have been sold for the upcoming 2023-24 season, which is more than double the current number.

Hamilton has already lost the Honeybadgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) to Brampton as a result of the arena renovations. 

The Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League, a team which recently moved to Hamilton but refused to change its team name, will also be displaced by the FirstOntario Centre renovations. It remains unclear where they will play during the upgrades.

Interestingly, this will not be the first time that an OHL team has played in Brantford. From 1978 to 1984 the Brantford Alexanders played out of the Civic Centre. 

It is also fitting that a hockey team will be moving back to Brantford since the city is famously the hometown of hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

The City of Brantford estimates that the team’s move will inject $4 million a year into the community’s local economy.

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