FirstOntario Centre Information
The FirstOnatrio Center has all the adrenaline, sweat, blood and tears of sports in its foundations since its very beginning when its construction began in 1983. Its heart as an arena has remained the same despite changes over the decades, and although it is a building that deals with a huge variety of events and passions, the foremost one is sports and bringing people together.
In 1985 the FirstOnatrio Center (then known as the Copps Coliseum) was built into Hamilton grounds to provide a much-needed sports arena that could hold larger ice hockey games and provide adequate seating for sports fans. Hamiltonian, Joseph Pigott, over saw the huge project where 33.5 million dollars was spent on the building, and a further 2.4 million dollars spent on the parking garage. The Ontario Hockey League team, The Hamilton Steelhawks began play in the arena in its opening year, and for the 1986 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship the Copps Coliseum was the master venue and the place where the undefeated Soviet Union defeated Canada in its first loss, 4-1.
In 1990 it was the host for the Memorial Cup, and on May 13th it set the single game attendance record with a staggering 17,383 spectators watching the famous game where Oshawa Generals player, Bill Armstrong, scored a goal in double overtime that defeated the Kitchener Rangers.
For nearly four decades the FirstOntario Centre has had hockey teams visit and play on their grounds. The Dukes, the Skyhawks, the Bulldogs and the Honey Badgers play repeatedly on the site, and The Hamilton Bulldogs have made it their home arena.
The Lacrosse team, The Toronto Rock, also calls the venue their home arena, and are stoked to move forward with the venue into the future.
When the Barton Street Arena was demolished in 1977, Hamilton had a vacancy for a major ice hockey venue. The Barton Street Arena had been reasonably small, so huge efforts were made to up the capacity with the construction of its replacement. The project was started in 1983 and was completed in 1985 at a cost of $33.5 million, with a further $2.3 million to construct a parking garage. The venue was originally named Copps Coliseum after major Victor Copps.
Over the years, the venue has played host to some of the most important games in the nation. It was one of few venues to host the 1994 FIBA World Championship, along with Maple Leaf Gardens and SkyDome. The following year, the centre hosted the FIBA Americas Championship for Women.
In 1996, the Hamilton Bulldogs took up residence at the FirstOntario centre. As the highest affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens, they helped to bring in over 2 million spectators to the venue.
In early 2014, the Hamilton City council voted in favour of a $3.5-million deal to rename the Copps Coliseum after local credit union First Ontario. The name FirstOntario Centre was revealed that spring. Today, the venue is primarily home to the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls team.
Along with games, the FirstOntario Centre also provides a platform for the biggest stage shows from the world’s top recording artists to showcase their touring shows.
THE FIRSTONTARIO CENTRE HAS A LOT TO OFFER
The Centre has so much to offer, and not just for sports fans. There have been some pretty groundbreaking performances, appearances and even royal visits – Queen Elizabeth II visited the FirstOntario Centre with Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, as a part of their 2002 royal tour of Canada. And a very different kind of royal event, the WWF Royal Rumble, made a record-breaking attendance in Canada in 1988 with 18,000 people flocking to the arena to witness who would be crowned the victor.
Figure skating superstar Elvis Stojko has graced the ice and wowed audiences, the sparkly magic of Disney often infuses with the famous ice rink with ‘Disney On Ice’ and former first lady Michelle Obama was hosted for a special, intimate evening in conversation with her in 2019.
The Centre has become an important part of the Steel City and is not simply a building but a place where community and entertainment are combined to create a hub open to audiences across Canada.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In 2019 the general issues committee voted to create a steering committee to pave a way forward for the FirstOntario Centre, seeing the need for a bigger, more modern venue. Discussions and plans have been underway for years.
Now, the huge renovation plans will commence at the start of 2024 with Oak View Group (OVG) and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) collaborating to invest in the $280 million renovation.
The huge reconstruction is to create the biggest hub in Hamilton, where everyone is welcome and to create community and give great experiences to everyone who walks inside its grounds. OVG Canada president Tom Pistore stated, ‘we will make this important for Hamilton, but we will also make this a venue that resonates across Canada.’
The renovations are predicted to be finished by 2025, but thankfully for fans of The Toronto Rock they will be finishing their 2024 season without any hitches. The future of the FirstOntario Centre is looking bright and its soul for sports will be strengthened as well as making it a home for major musical events too.
DON’T HANG AROUND, BOOK NOW!
Whether you want to experience the buzz of a huge, important game, feel like a rockstar as you sing along with your favourite artist, experience the massive adrenaline rush of being a part of a huge crowd, or be a part of an intimate entertainment event, the First Ontario Centre will give that to you. So, check out the latest events the FirstOntario Centre has on offer, there is something for everyone, and book your tickets now!
For venue parking information please see the parking page.
For ticket information and information on our ticket provider please see the FirstOntario Centre tickets page.
For seating chart configuration and find out about accessible seating, please see the Seating Chart page.