I began to feel nervous driving up Ottawa Street.
And as I turned onto Barton and neared Gage I began to quietly prepare myself for the worst – the way you prepare for a hospital visit to a dying friend or relative.
But there it was. Most of it, anyway. Snow-covered and recognizable, “Ivor Wynne Stadium” still fixed defiantly to the front of the south grandstand media box.
The demolition of the 84-year-old Hamilton, Ontario, stadium was well underway, though: the large north side light standards seemingly flattened in freefall onto the seating of sections 5,6,8, and 9; the east endzone seats on top of the visitor’s locker room replaced by a pile of concrete and steel rubble; and the empty space where sections 27 to 30 used to be.
Bulldozers, shovels, large concrete-destroying claws – all in action this cold January Saturday. And activity, also, outside the caution tape and safety fences. A woman in a black and gold Tiger-Cats jacket, a guy in a Maple Leafs jacket and hat who used to work at the stadium and wanted his picture taken, and more than a few cars just driving up Balsam Avenue, perhaps having one last look before the new Pan-Am stadium rises from this demolition.
But the stadium isn’t going down without a fight. A large excavator, dismantling southeast stands where the Tiger-Cats’ locker room stood, sits tipped precariously to one side, stranded and seemingly sinking into the ground.
Unhurt in the mishap, the vehicle’s operator unknowingly found basement and perhaps the tunnel the players used to access the field from the locker room.
It’s certainly sad to see my stadium in this way. But memories of my first game as a child with my Dad, Mom, and sister, as well as my daughter and son’s first game in 2011 and 2012, respectively, will remain.