Published on August 13, 2008 8:43 PM by dbo.
CFL news continues to be Toronto-centric this year. Not necessarily the on-field news, although the Argonauts have had their share of coverage over their 3-4 start. The off-field activities surrounding the future of the team and the influence of the NFL continue to make headlines, this week no exception with the Buffalo Bills arriving Thursday to play their first of their eight games in five years.
First, news that the Argos are surveying their season ticket holders regarding their interest in the Argos playing games at the outdoor BMO Field. Called exploratory by the Argos, the media’s interpretation is the Argos believe a move is required to find their market niche in preparation of the NFL’s arrival in Toronto. In reality, the Argos may be just as interested in finding out their fans do not want to move. The stadium modifications required to expand BMO Field to 30,000 seats and accommodate the CFL field has instigated a debate between the City of Toronto, MLSE, operators of the stadium and the Argos in the wake of the Argo survey becoming public. The matter of who should pay for the stadium expansion is also hanging over any plan for the Argonauts to move, fans approving or not. It is likely the politics of the MLSE management agreement, their control of stadium revenue streams and their opposition to stadium expansion and modification as stated this week will frustrate the Argos enough to give up on any move. Torontonians are finding out that the public good is lost when a few economically powerful groups are given control over the city’s infrastructure.
The other story percolating again is the debate over the NFL in Toronto with the first exhibition game in the Bills Toronto Series taking place on Thursday. With the initial shine of the announcement not as distracting, the media is starting to look at the dirt and rust underneath. Reporters are asking which city the series helps have an NFL franchise long-term, Toronto or Buffalo? The high ticket prices Torontonians must pay, even for an exhibition game, to support Rogers’ attempt to break even on their purchase of the games continues to be questioned. Paul Godfrey even opined that Rogers Center makes sense as a permanent home for an NFL franchise over building a new stadium, flipping on thoughts that Toronto is so NFL mad that $30,000 seat licenses could pay for a new stadium. Godfrey’s reasoning is Rogers Centre generates as much revenue as other NFL stadiums thanks to private boxes and higher ticket prices. So it appears Toronto can expect to have the highest ticket prices in the league if they ever do acquire an NFL franchise in order to pay for the franchise and the owner’s return on investment.
Both stories are very hot topics and divisive if the number of comments and tone on these articles are any indication. Citizens are on both sides of the BMO Field question, some wanting it to remain soccer only, some favouring expansion for an Argo move. The NFL question is also very well debated (as much debate that exists in web comments) with much backlash against Rogers as well as support for the Argos and CFL as well as the Bills Series and an NFL team in Toronto. There is even a small protest being organized against the NFL in Toronto before the Bills opener on Thursday. All in all, the Argos haven’t been in the public eye and stirring up debate this much in decades.