By Jessica Lovell
The CFL season is still more than a few months away, but the Hamilton Ti-Cats are already setting up shop in Guelph with plans to make sure local fans are getting involved in the football fun.
“We want to have participation from the community, and we want them to buy in,” said Ti-Cats director of marketing Steve Lowe.
The Tiger-Cats are opening an office downtown in the same building as the Guelph Chamber of Commerce. “We’re ready to move into an office there, so we can have some presence there,” said Lowe.
It’s already common knowledge that the Ti-Cats will be playing their 2013 season at the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium, he said, but what people don’t know is what a game day in Guelph might look like.
“A lot of people are going to want to experience what the Ti-Cats coming to Guelph is all about,” said Lowe, noting the team is in the preliminary stages of planning to create that unique experience.
The team has been in conversations with the chamber, the university, the Downtown Guelph Business Association and the City of Guelph to plan some upcoming promotional events, as well as game-day events.
“We’re talking about a whole street-party concept to leverage the great downtown core that Guelph has to offer,” said Lowe. “We’re looking to put that on every game day.”
With a seating capacity of between 14,000 and 15,000 at the university facility, a Ti-Cats ticket is “going to be a tough ticket to get,” he said. But just because not everyone can go to the game doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get to take part in the party.
Some of the ideas that are being tossed around include closing some downtown streets and offering people the chance to watch the game on some large outdoor screens, said Lowe.
Tailgate parties at south-end hotels have also been discussed, said Guelph Chamber of Commerce president Lloyd Longfield.
“We want to have the right types of events going on in Guelph around the games,” he said.
But in spite of the fact that games will be played south of the downtown, it seems that game-day events will be more centred around the downtown.
“The downtown is our entertainment district; it’s also the heart of our city, so if you’re showcasing Guelph, you go to the downtown,” said Longfield.
Guelph-based stakeholders like the chamber will be doing their best to make the most of the Ti-Cats’ presence to promote the city to football fans, but the Ti-Cats are also working to promote Hamilton football to Guelph and the surrounding region.
To make sure that at least some Guelph football fans have the chance to see the game from a stadium seat, the team is making between 2,000 and 4,000 tickets available for Guelph residents.
“We’re going to be launching that in mid-February, before they get released to the general public,” said Lowe.
As well, as part of the strategy to market the team to the region, the Ti-Cats will be co-ordinating with local stakeholders to host a launch event – tentatively planned for sometime in March – where they will announce some of the plans for the upcoming season.
A larger public event, one that will likely include a visit from some players, will follow in March or April, said Lowe.
“We could have taken the strategy of just taking our market up to Guelph, but that’s not what we’re about,” he said. “We’re a regional team.”
Still, fans can be expected to travel from Hamilton for the games, and the team is also working on strategies to get them here.
“We will be working out transportation solutions for fans who can’t otherwise make it to the games,” said Lowe.
For local fans, shuttle buses from the downtown are one of the transportation strategies that have been discussed.
But Lowe, a University of Guelph graduate, doesn’t necessarily think the downtown is too far from the university, and believes it makes sense to tie it into the game-day experience. “The downtown is just a hop-skip away from the university. We just think it’s a great piece of the pie,” he said. “We think it will be a great attraction.”