Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Argos shifting things north

If you’re an Argonaut fan in Timmins and all points south, the drive down Yonge Street just got a little bit shorter for 2006. Monday afternoon the Toronto Argonauts announced that they have reached an agreement with York University to build a 25,000 seat stadium on the University campus just feet away from Toronto’s northern boundary.

With that decision the controversy over where the Argos should hang their helmets finally comes to an end (for now). The York advantage came about after the University of Toronto backed out of a previous deal to build the stadium at the downtown campus. The Varsity project was to originally involve the University, Soccer Canada, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Toronto Argonauts. Things with that project began to unravel when the Leafs decided to end their participation in the multi million dollar effort.

After that the design of the stadium is reportedly to have been changed a number of times, in the end providing the Argos with less than what they thought they were going to have going in. Pressure which was brought to bear on the University by Toronto councillor Olivia Chow eventually resulted in the University backing out of its commitment as well, ending the idea of a huge stadium on its campus.

The project was thus dumped back into the laps of the Argos and Soccer Canada, the old Exhibition stadium site briefly found its supporters as did a faction that thought that Woodbine Raceway lands would serve as a suitable home for the double blue.

With the U of T’s fumble, York then apparently jumped at the chance to be considered once again. Originally in the running from day one it was the preferred choice of the Argo ownership group all along, but with the bureaucratic maze of partners in the venture they had to tag along with whichever site would receive the maximum funding. With York now back in the picture, the Argo ownership is content they have the stadium they wanted in the location they desired. From the standpoint of the Argos, York and Soccer Canada its all systems go, bring in the bulldozers.

As with any change there are all sorts of discussion on the subject. Some critics suggest that moving the team to the far reaches of the city will cost them fans who combine their football with a night on the town. That argument is countered by those that say the fact that the stadium will be away from downtown and closer to where the bulk of the population lives will be more beneficial. Transportation links will have to be enhanced; the TTC will be pressed to extend a subway link to the York campus now, something that would be welcome by football fans and students alike.

The weather has apparently become an issue as well; suddenly the Argo faithful are concerned about giving up their climate controlled lives in Skydome, not wanting to face the elements like those rubes on the prairies or down the QEW. Of course the counter to that argument is that they hadn’t been beating down the doors in past years to avoid the elements, more than likely they were just trying to avoid the football.

The economics of the CFL today suggest that a stadium with 25,000 seats is the most viable venue for the leagues franchises. The possibility of expansion at York is there, a scenario that was impossible at the Varsity location. The owners of the Argos are happy with their choice, looking forward to their own stadium. More importantly they’re looking forward to the chance to fill it every weekend, for the folks in Timmins pack the car, the Argos are a lot closer than you thought!

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