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Ticats enjoy playing at Tim Hortons Field - finally - in 13-12 win over Argos

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HAMILTON - Was it the brand new turf at Tim Hortons Field that put a bounce in the step of veteran Hamilton Tiger-Cat defensive back Marc Beswick?

Or was it simply that he was playing the Toronto Argonauts in the Labour Day Classic?

"This field is actually a little bit faster (than at the old Ivor Wynne Stadium)," said the 31-year-old who has played six of his seven seasons in Hamilton. "Maybe because it's brand new. But I think part of it's because it was Toronto. That could be part of it. I always have a little extra juice for them."

The Ticats christened their new stadium with a 13-12 win over the Argos on Monday in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,135. The new stadium finally opened, more than a month behind schedule and thanks in large part to workers who worked around the clock getting it ready for a city inspection over the weekend that finally gave the team an occupancy permit to hold the game as scheduled. A portion of the seating remained closed. Once completely finished, the stadium will hold 24,000.

"I think it's louder here than it was at Ivor Wynne," he said. "Maybe because we haven't played here in a while. The energy here tonight from the fans was unbelievable."

Last year, the team held its home games at the University of Guelph. And when the new stadium — in the same north-end location as the old Ivor Wynne — wasn't ready to start the home schedule this summer, the team played out of McMaster University in Hamilton.

Two main differences that made the old stadium a challenge for opponents have now changed — the field now runs north to south which means the swirling winds of east-west Ivor Wynne have now changed direction but are still as strong (and the setting sun will no longer be in players' eyes). Also changed is the distance of the players on the sideline from the fans. At Ivor Wynne, the loud and opinionated crowd was right on top of the players. Here, the stands are back several yards. But they are still very, very loud.

"You can still hear them talking and yelling and cheering and screaming at you," Beswick said. "So that part I don't think is that big a deal. They're still there and they're still loud."

Bakari Grant, who will now be a trivia question as the first player to score a touchdown at Tim Hortons Field, said the noise of the crowd took him aback, even though he's been a Ticat for his entire four-year CFL career.

"You can't even expect something like that, but they were huge coming down to the last couple seconds," he said, when the defence held on for the win.

He called the turf "tops in the country", but acknowledged Hamilton is now going to have to get used to the new direction of the wind in order to take advantage.

"As for the wind, it will be great home-field advantage once we get used to it. Once we learn how to work with it. That will be a bonus, I think."

Toronto coach Scott Milanovich said he loved the intimacy of the smaller, dedicated field.

"It's going to be a great facility," he said. " It reminds me a lot about the Ottawa situation, it's kind of an intimate little stadium. I think it fits the CFL perfectly."

When asked if he would like to have a similar set-up for the Argos, he responded: "That's the talk, right? Everyone says if we were in BMO Field that we'd have a little of this for ourselves. We'd certainly like that."

And Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray also liked the atmosphere, especially the new visitor locker-rooms. Opposing teams basically changed in a concrete bunker at Ivor Wynne.

"Ivor Wynne was a tough place just to deal with all the things you had to deal with coming here, the locker-room being so small and we didn't have air conditioning one year and it was kind of a weird setup with the dugouts (where the players sat under the stands) and stuff," said Ray. "Now, it's looking pretty nice and once they get it finished, it's going to be a lot of fun to play (in)."

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