North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Ar-going out of the Rogers Centre

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(Apologies for that title, but I couldn’t resist)

Today’s news on the Toronto Argonauts is really interesting to me on a variety of levels. Of course, the big one is how the Argos are moving out of the Rogers Centre and into BMO Field, current home of the Toronto FC. This alone is pretty big stuff: the Rogers Centre is a cavernous stadium even at the best of times and frankly, when the Argos play there is just seems more like a cavern. And I say that as someone who’s paid to see them, multiple times!

See, the Argos aren’t as big a draw in Toronto as the other three big teams. There’s probably a good reason for why they lag behind the Raptors, Jays and Maple Leafs but I don’t really feel like diving into the psyche of Toronto or whatever. Maybe people think the CFL isn’t as glamorous as the bigger leagues, maybe Toronto’s just not a football town. Maybe having all the games on cable has limited the fan base. I don’t know. But the Argos are generally behind all three teams; at the Rogers Centre, the upper tier is usually roped off since not enough people come out to see ’em.

Moving to the smaller BMO makes sense: the stadium will look fuller, it’ll probably be a better atmosphere and honestly, it’ll probably be more fun to watch while sitting in the sun. Then again, there is (was?) a bit of an anti-Argos contingent among FC fans.

And if moving to BMO Field – which will require significant upgrades since it was intentionally built too small for a CFL field – wasn’t big enough, there’s also news of a new owner: Bell Media, the same people who control broadcasting rights for the league. Which is maybe a little like letting ESPN own a football team, but stranger things have happened. And I suppose every game is nationally televised already, anyway, so it’s not like Bell can be accused of promoting them over other teams.

But there are other neat things about this news, too. Like what it means for the Jays: are they closer to getting a grass-and-dirt field? Over at his site, Jays blogger/podcaster/all-around good egg Andrew Stoeten doesn’t seem to think so:

I’m just guessing, but my assumption is that would leave too little time for what you’d have to think will be a very complicated and time-sensitive project to get done. Presumably the whole undertaking would then get pushed back until the following Blue Jays off-season, between 2017 and 2018 — exactly when we’ve been expecting to take place all along.

I don’t disagree: the Rogers Centre would also need huge renovations for a new field. For example, I believe players currently park their cars under the current field, a spot that’d need to be filled with dirt and a proper drainage system. And remember the issues they had when the roof jammed open during a storm a while ago? There’s a lot of work to be done.

A final interesting touch is the idea the NHL might stage an outdoor game at BMO Field in the future. Talk about burying the lead! Toronto hasn’t held an outdoor game, although the Leafs have played in one, and there aren’t really many places in Ontario where a game could be held. The only two outdoor stadiums remotely big enough are Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field or London’s TD Stadium, which could probably physically host a game but are too small for the NHL.

Again, BMO Field makes sense. Their fan guide says the field holds over 30,000 people; even if that includes the 8000+ seats they’re adding in the expansion, that’s still a pretty big stadium by CFL standards and the biggest one in the eastern time zone.

Still, it’s rather intimate for a NHL outdoor game. Remember, previous games have been held at huge stadiums. Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium holds over 70,000 people, last year’s outdoor game at Michigan Stadium drew over 100,000 people. That’s quite a jump down. There’s also the question of the NHL’s relationship with Rogers (who own broadcasting rights) and Rogers relationship with Bell (kinda testy, even at the best of times). I guess what I’m saying is don’t hold your breath on this one, although it’s a pretty cool idea.

One final thought: it’s super easy to get to an Argos game right now. Take the subway or a bus down to Union, walk across the concourse and across the SkyWalk and you’re there. So easy, even if you’re coming from north of Yorkdale. BMO Field? A little harder to get to: it’s not along the subway and I don’t think it’s really within a reasonable walking distance. You gotta drive or take a streetcar, unless I’m remembering it wrong. So in that sense, it’s a little more annoying. But hey, if that’s the big downside, it’s not a bad problem to have.


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