4) Will attendances finally improve?
Mention the word ‘attendance’ around anyone associated with the Toronto Argonauts, and the chances are their shoulders will slump. No matter how well other areas of the franchise are doing, people attending home games is not one of them.
The franchise reached a low point in 2015, during their last season at the SkyDome. The average attendance that year was just over 12,430 per game, with the Montreal Alouettes second-worst at 21,430.
If the Argos were hoping for better fortunes in their new home, they were still left disappointed. Yes, over 16,000 per contest was an improvement during their first year at BMO Field, but it was still less than anticipated, despite the novelty which usually surrounds moving to a different stadium.
And the situation became even worse last year, with average attendances dipping to below 14,000. As such, the question has to be asked if there will be a substantial improvement in fans going to the games in 2018?
The first inclination might be to say ‘yes’, with the Argonauts coming off a Grey Cup championship. And yet, there was a similar sentiment after winning in 2012, but the crowds didn’t come flocking back, like they previously did in the good ‘ol days.
So, what’s going to be different this time? What will be done to get more fans — particularly the younger sports enthusiasts — traveling to BMO Field to watch the most successful professional franchise in Toronto sports history?
It helps that new owners MLSE are thoroughly invested in making their purchase a success. Consider these comments from Gregory Strong of The Canadian Press, via CP 24:
"‘Owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is making some off-field changes after the team struggled with attendance last year. Some ticket prices have been lowered, tailgate parties will be moved inside the stadium, and a marketing blitz will be aimed at generating buzz among millennials and longtime club supporters.’"
There’s no doubt it’s going to be a tough sell, and there is an overriding sentiment the Argos will never be as prominent as they used to be in the local sports market. Regardless, we predict attendances will improve from last season; how much though, remains to be seen.