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FirstOntario Centre

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FirstOntario Centre
Location 101 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario
Opened November 1985
Owner City of Hamilton
Operator Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc
Surface Ice
Former names Copps Coliseum
Tenants Hamilton Steelhawks (OHL) (1985–1988)
Dukes of Hamilton (OHL) (1989–1991)
Hamilton Canucks (AHL) (1992–1994)
Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) (1996–2015)
Ontario Raiders (National Lacrosse League) (1998)
Toronto Raptors (National Basketball Association
Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) (2015-present)
Capacity Concerts: 19,000
Ice hockey 17,383
Field Dimensions 200 x 85 feet (expandable to 200 x 100)

FirstOntario Centre is a sports and entertainment arena on the corner of Bay Street North and York Boulevard in Hamilton, Ontario. It was formerly named after the former Hamilton mayor, Victor K. Copps as the Copps Coliseum, The facility has a capacity of up to 19,000.


It was started at 1983 and was completed in 1985 at a cost of $33.5 million, and an additional $2.3 million for a parking garage. The construction was overseen by local Hamiltonian, Joseph Pigott.

The scoreboard clock was originally from the Winnipeg Arena, purchased for $214,000. Although it was not brand new, the scoreboard clock met the needs of Copps Coliseum.

While Copps Coliseum was built in the hope that Hamilton could draw an NHL franchise, for the past 12 seasons, beginning in October 1996, Copps Coliseum has been home to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League. The Bulldogs, the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers (1996–2002) and the Montreal Canadiens (2002–present) have brought over 2 million fans to Copps Coliseum, and are the longest serving pro hockey team in Southern Ontario, aside from the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bulldogs are the sole primary tenant in the facility. On Thursday June 7th, 2007 the Hamilton Bulldogs won their first Calder Cup Championship in franchise history at home in Copps Coliseum by defeating the Hershey Bears.

In 1986, the World Junior Hockey Championships were held in southern Ontario, with Copps Coliseum used as the primary venue. In the decisive game, the Soviet Union defeated Canada 4-1.

In 1987, the arena was the primary host for the Canada Cup tournament and was the site of Mario Lemieux's famous goal that beat the Soviets 6-5 in the decisive game. It hosted a number of games in the Canada Cup again in 1991 when Canada defeated USA in the finals.

In 1990, Copps Coliseum hosted the Memorial Cup. The tournament that year recorded the highest attendance for any single Memorial Cup game, on May 13, 1990 at 17,383 spectators. In that same championship game, the Oshawa Generals defeated the Kitchener Rangers by a score of 4 to 3 in double overtime on a goal by Bill Armstrong.

In 2007, Waterloo billionaire Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion, made an offer to purchase the Nashville Predators for $220 Million US. His intention was to move the team to Hamilton and either use Copps Coliseum as a temporary home while a new state-of-the-art arena could be built, or to renovate Copps to bring it up to modern NHL standards. The bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

In the spring of 2009, NHL franchise Phoenix Coyotes filed bankruptcy and Jim Balsillie immediately offered a rumoured $212.5 Million US, while stating he wanted to move the franchise to Southwestern Ontario. Balsillie has applied for a lease option which, should the relocation succeed, would invoke a 20-year lease for the team to play at Copps Coliseum.

On May 9th, 2009, the Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and others reported that that Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger was to meet with a second group interested in securing a lease. The group, led by Vancouver businessmen Tom Gaglardi and Nelson Skalbania, is interested in securing an interest in the Atlanta Thrashers and moving them to the Coliseum for the 2010-11 NHL season.

Also on May 9, 2009 the Thrasher's VP and GM Don Waddellhad this to say to the AJC: "There is no truth to it... We are not a movable franchise. I have talked to our owners, and no one has had contact with any group.”

And he also had this to say to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN:

"I have spoken to our owners again today on this subject," said Waddell. "The Atlanta Thrashers hockey club is a vital part of the Atlanta area. We also own the Atlanta Hawks and have controlling interest in a 99 year lease with Philips Arena. Our franchise is not available to be moved, we will continue to be part of this community for many many years."

On May 13, 2009 The Canadian Press reported on that Balsillie won the exclusive rights to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum until November after a unanimous vote by Hamilton city council. On May 29, 2009, Balsillie unveiled his plans to renovate the Coliseum into a state-of-the-art facility in anticipation of a NHL franchise coming to Hamilton.

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