On Thursday, June 23, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., the Toronto Argonauts will host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, at the newly renovated BMO Field. The team moves to BMO after playing 27 seasons at the Rogers Centre since 1989.

Argonaut supporters have complained about the lack of an authentic football atmosphere at the Rogers Centre. Critics of the downtown dome have suggested the atmosphere is lacking, due to the dome being too large for the CFL, having the feeling of being in a cave and not having adequate tailgating areas. The average attendance during the Rogers Centre tenure had been under 20,000 fans in a facility that seats well over 50,000. Corporate sponsorships were dwindling.

Will the move to BMO Field be the magic bullet to the financial and attendance problems of the Argonaut organization?

Larry Tanenbaum and Bell Canada, comprising two-thirds of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group, firmly believe the stadium is the answer. The stadium in their assessment would provide the atmosphere for fans to see a game in an open and energetic stadium. Also, the environment would be improved by the ability to accommodate tailgating, the ritualistic tradition of football culture. The group believes fans will come if they provide a renewed and exciting football experience. More fans, more revenue. Problem solved! Or is it?

A concern for the Argonauts is the co-operative use of the field with the Toronto FC Soccer organization. FC supporters have significant concerns about the field remaining a primary soccer venue. FC supporters don’t want to take a chance in risking the future of Canadian soccer. Will football and soccer be able to co-exist on a grass playing field? The field will be exposed to a heavy load of action. The potential wear and tear of the field are a concern for FC fans. The preservation of the pitch is of utmost importance to FC soccer fans. Will the co-op be beneficial or an ongoing concern?

The MLSE has given over $1 million dollars to the maintenance and upkeep of the field. The group has also invested in fields grown in Ontario, to provide backup for damaged areas. The grounds crew will model and seek advice from the grounds crew at Wembley Stadium. Wembley Stadium annually hosts over 400 hours of events. The combined usage at BMO is projected to be around 200 hours.

Periodically, professional sports organizations have to make financial decisions involving relocation or new ownership. The decisions sometimes create ambivalence with the fan base. One thing for sure is something had to be done about the Toronto Argonauts. The progress in the past of the organization was like watching a car spinning its wheels in the mud. A lot is going on, but going nowhere. Will the move prove beneficial or insufficient? Argonaut fans anxiously await the answer.

Image courtesy of CFL.ca

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