Toronto Argonauts Need to Secure BMO Field Deal by End of Month


Toronto Argonauts Need to Secure BMO Field Deal by End of Month

The future of the Toronto Argonauts in Southern Ontario has always been a ticking time bomb, dependent on their finding a new stadium as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the potential for a catastrophic explosion just increased, with the news that a lease agreement to play at BMO Field likely needs to be secured by the end of this month.

The report was confirmed by Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, who wrote that the deadline was influenced by the Phase II renovations to BMO Field. In reality, this isn’t much different from the original timeline set back in September last year, when the CFL advised the Argonauts to get a stadium deal signed within six months.

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The sense of urgency is palpable, at least to Argos fans. Unfortunately, there is little they can do to influence the desperately needed stadium deal.

The future of the team – and maybe even the CFL as a whole – is out of their hands. Instead, the fate of the Argonauts will be decided between David Braley and MLSE.

As you can imagine, this prospect leaves a lot of people understandably nervous. As it stands, the gap in negotiations between the two sides is $10 million – the funding amount needed for the next phase of renovations to BMO Field.

If the money can be secured, it will go towards Toronto FC‘s home becoming a dual-purpose stadium with a 30,000 seat capacity. This capacity would also be expanded to 40,000 for special (i.e. lucrative) events.

While discussions between the two sides are ongoing, the biggest issue is the difference of priorities within MLSE. This becomes less surprising when you consider they are owned by Bell and Rogers.

Bell are more than willing to resolve the outstanding issue with Braley and the Argonauts. This is understandable, given that they own TSN, which just so happens to broadcast CFL games.

On the other hand, Rogers – which own Sportsnet – is not particularly bothered about the CFL. As far as they are concerned, they are already pouring enough money into the Toronto Blue Jays and the new 12-year NHL deal.

Nov 22, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (left) talks with MLSE chairman of the board Larry Tanenbaum (right) during the second period of a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Another factor which could influence the MLSE mindset is Larry Tanenbaum. The minority owner is apparently in favour of making a deal, but isn’t totally on the same wavelength as Bell.

Overall, MLSE has to realise that they are likely the last chance to save the future of the Argonauts. If a stadium deal cannot be agreed, there appear to be no other realistic options for the oldest professional sports franchise in North America.

However, there could be more at stake, i.e. the long-term existence of the CFL as a whole. It has often been wondered if the league could survive without a team in Toronto?

Yes, there are people in other CFL cities who say there is more than enough fan support to overcome the loss of the Argos franchise. The problem is, with no team in Toronto, the CFL TV deal would be affected negatively, with sponsors likely severing ties.

The question is – do MLSE want to run the risk of being known as the company that killed the CFL? Only they have the answer, but the time bomb continues to tick ever closer to zero.