Status of Toronto Stadiums
Toronto Argonauts – Rogers Centre
In 2012 the Toronto Argonauts stated they had no immediate plans to look for another venue to play in under current owner David Braley. Rumours of the Argos looking to build a smaller venue became more prevalent in 2013 with continuing comments from Rogers/Blue Jays staff causing Toronto Argonaut Executive Chairman & CEO Chris Rudge to admit they are actively investigating alternatives. The announcement of the new television deal for 2014-2018 with TSN increased the speculation that the Argos under David Braley will strike a deal to build an intimate outdoor stadium in Toronto. Commissioner Cohon said the broadcast deal allows teams to invest in facilities and called the Argonauts desire to move out of Rogers Centre into a smaller stadium as primary tenant "mission critical" to the franchise's long term plan. Yet even rapid developments in early 2013 would require a 3 to 5 year time period for planning, funding and construction of a stadium barring some radical temporary home plan, leaving the Argonauts at Rogers Centre for the foreseeable future. Expect the Argos to invest first in a dedicated practice facility before moving into a new stadium.
The Argonauts will play their 2013 pre-season game versus the Montreal Alouettes on Thursday, June 20th at Varsity Stadium on the campus of the University of Toronto. In 2010, the Argos moved one of their regular season home games to host Touchdown Atlantic in Moncton, New Brunswick.
The dream of a smaller open-air venue in Toronto for the Argonauts to call home has been around for over a decade now. Sherwood Schwartz was unable to to gain any traction in his term as the Argos owner from 1999-2003. Then in 2004, after purchasing the club the previous year, Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon announced plans in conjunction with the University of Toronto, the federal and provincial governments and the Canadian Soccer Association to build a $80 million, 28,500 seat stadium on the site of the previous Varsity Stadium, demolished in 2002. Over the next few months the size was whittled down by 5,000 seats and the university faced pressure over noise, their monetary commitment and private partnership issues. The rug was pulled out from the co-owners when the university pulled out of the deal over the cost of the project rising to over $100 million. The University of Toronto completed a smaller project with a 5,000 seat stadium and other facilities in 2007 costing $61.7 million of which the university contributed just over $16 million.
Sokolowski and Cynamon moved on in the fall of 2004 with plans to build a $70 million stadium on the campus of York University in north Toronto. This 25,000 stadium was to be cost shared between the same partners, Sokolowski/Cynamon, the university, the CSA and the federal and provincial governments. The story of how the Varisty deal fell apart and the York agreement was put together is a long one. Though a return to Varsity Stadium was an emotional favourite, many advantages to the York site were seen in time. At the same time the York deal was announced, the sale of the SkyDome was completed from Sportsco to Rogers for almost $30 million. Sokolowski was a member of the consortium that sold the SkyDome to Sportsco in 1999 for $80 million.
This time it was Sokolowski and Cynamon who pulled the rug out on the deal, announcing in May 2005 that they were pulling out of the project after negotiating a five-year lease with Rogers Centre with 2 five-year options. The primary reasons given for the change of direction was the new lease at Rogers Centre gave them access to revenue streams, lease savings and better date selection. The move to stay at Rogers Centre was criticized since the owners had publicly berated the facility for football. York University has not started construction of any stadium since this stadium plan was cancelled.
Media rumours that the Argos would move to BMO Field surfaced in the wake of these two scuttled stadium deals. BMO Field opened in 2007 as the home for FIFA soccer events (the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup to start) that the CSA was seeking in the U of T and York University deals. While true that the Argos investigated the possibility of CFL football at BMO Field in 2009, they concluded the stadium could not support the Canadian field in its current state. At the same time, Argonaut owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski were in the process of selling the team to David Braley. During this time, they failed to renew their five-year lease option (paywall) for Rogers Centre, leaving the incoming owner to renegotiate a deal.
Some believe a new stadium is required for the Argos to survive. Funding and the political climate appear to be the enemy to that occurring at present.
razzledazzle.cfldb prepared an infographic in 2012 on the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Argonauts sharing Rogers Centre.
cfldb Articles and Single Point Links on Toronto Stadiums
Article March 2012: Stadium Highs, Stadium Lows
Article Feb. 2012: Grass, Stadiums, Franchises and the Grey Cup
Article April 2009: State of the Stadiums
Article Aug. 2008: CFL News Toronto-centric
Article April 2008: Argos Pass on BMO Field - For Now