EllisDon has been selected as the construction manager for the $280 million renovation at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ont., project developer Oak View Group (OVG) reported to the Daily Commercial News.
This comes after the City of Hamilton signed a deal with OVG and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) to respectively undergo the FirstOntario Centre facelift and revitalization of the downtown core.
OVG is leading the project to transform the facility, formerly known as Copps Coliseum, into an 18,000-seat capacity venue.
HUPEG, a regional consortium is working in collaboration with leading industry consultants and development partners including LIUNA, First Ontario Credit Union and Meridian Credit Union to revitalize downtown Hamilton’s arts and entertainment district.
The colossal overhaul first came to light in 2021 when HUPEG signed master agreements with the City of Hamilton to renovate the centre, the FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre with an initial $50 million private investment.
“It was the most modest renovation you could imagine and did not include the big picture,” said OVG president Tom Pistore.
The developer stepped in with plans to build a concourse, three new clubs, with state-of-the-art technology and other additional features to bring to light what Pistore calls, “The Oak View Group ‘Grand Vision.’”
He reports other details will include taking into consideration the artists who will perform there and what they need for a spectacular experience – including premium acoustics and other features.
Pistore said these additions, as well as inflation, “cost creep,” and pure economics account for the project’s six-fold cost increase.
“Hamilton is already an important entertainment destination in Canada, and the city deserves a state-of-the-art venue that will attract the world’s best events to the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” said Tim Leiweke, OVG chairman and CEO.
OVG will partner with Live Nation for venue bookings.
“We are thrilled to contribute to the transformation of FirstOntario Centre into a premier entertainment hub,” said Randy Reymer, EllisDon’s vice-president and area manager for southwestern Ontario. “This endeavour represents not just a renovation, but a commitment to elevating the city’s cultural and economic landscape. At EllisDon, we embrace the challenge of crafting a state-of-the-art venue that blends innovation and accessibility. Our team is excited to play a role in bringing this vision to life, adding to the vibrancy of Hamilton’s downtown core. More than just construction, this project is an investment in the city’s dynamic future, and we are honoured to be a part of it.”
The York Boulevard facility, that first opened in 1985 will, post-renovation will feature a re-imagined facade, premium seating, improved sightlines, upgraded concourses, optimized clubs and suites and artist lounges.
In a statement, the OVG group said the venue will join a rapidly growing southwestern Canadian marketplace with the ability to accommodate larger shows alongside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena. Work is scheduled to begin in spring 2024, and the building is expected to open in the fall of 2025.
Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects is designing the project. It’s part of a larger downtown revitalization project known as “The Commons,” which includes the newly re-imagined arena, a renovated convention centre, significant investments in the Art Gallery of Hamilton and concert hall facilities, as well as new residential, office and retail development.
“It’s a big project and construction of this nature can sometimes create some headaches as it’s happening, but the work (will) transform our downtown core and have an amazing impact on our city. This is going to be a world class venue and will put us on the map as a centre of live music and events,” said City of Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath.
The FirstOntario Concert Hall and the Hamilton Convention Centre are expected to remain open and continue to host events during the planned facelifts.
Renovations were intended to begin in September but were pushed back to allow Grey Cup events to be held at the venue this weekend.
“Born and raised in Hamilton, I have many treasured memories in this city’s arena, concert hall and convention centre,” said PJ Mercanti, HUPEG president and CEO. “I’m honoured to lead our Precinct Group and work alongside OVG Canada and the City of Hamilton.”