Hamilton Bulldogs consider move to Brantford until at least 2026

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Published January 31, 2023 at 1:02 pm

With significant renovations planned for FirstOntario Centre, the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs appear headed to Brantford until at least 2026.

In need of a new home for their next two Ontario Hockey League seasons, the Hamilton Bulldogs are looking at a temporary move to downtown Brantford, where the Bulldogs would remain until 2026, and potentially through 2029.

Brantford City Council will vote on Feb. 7 to consider a proposal to enter an agreement with the OHL club that would see the team relocate and rebranded as the Brantford Bulldogs.

The staff report details the terms of a facility lease and license agreement with the Bulldogs and its use of the Brantford Civic Centre for three years, beginning with the 2023-24 season. The agreement includes options to renew the lease through 2029.

Discussions between the Bulldogs and the City of Brantford have been underway since Dec. 2022, and the two sides have “reached an understanding,” according to the report.

Brantford’s arena will need substantial upgrades to make any deal official, though. The aging Civic Centre, located about 40 kilometres west of the Bulldogs’ current home, FirstOntario Centre, would need $7.5 million in upgrades. Currently, the arena only seats about 2,900 fans and is well-below OHL standards.

The Bulldogs have reportedly agreed to pay for the upgrades; however, the term sheet proposed to city council outlines a $3 million allowance for the team for “necessary capital improvements.” In addition to the City’s contribution toward the planned upgrades to the Civic Centre, the report also recommends that council approve the required installation of an HVAC system in the facility, estimated at $1.63 million.

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Brantford Civic Centre (Jason Voll/Google Photos 2021)

“I am very excited about the prospect of bringing an OHL team to Brantford,” said Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis. “A partnership with an established OHL franchise will reinforce the image of Brantford as a renowned sport-friendly city, as well as enhance the perception of the city as active, vibrant, and attractive to future investment, especially surrounding the downtown core.”

“Furthermore, Brantford is growing rapidly, and would benefit tremendously from an upgraded premier multi-use event venue in the downtown to serve existing residents and attract new ones.”

An internal assessment in Brantford estimates a direct economic impact of $4,337,700 million annually resulting from the proposed Bulldogs partnership, “derived from visiting team overnights and fan spending at local businesses.”

“An estimated $297,250 annually in local wages is also expected,” reads the report. “In addition, the Bulldogs Foundation will commit to working with the City of Brantford to identify and implement Brantford-focused social programs consistent with its main purpose.”

FirstOntario Centre will undergo significant renovations this year, forcing its tenants to find new homes. The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Honey Badgers have already relocated from Hamilton to Brampton.

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