Realty One


Titan Auto

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


TORONTO - The Toronto Argonauts have found a new home and owner.

Two league sources confirmed Tuesday the CFL team has been sold to Bell and MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum. The official announcement will be made Wednesday.

The sources say the deal also includes a lease agreement for the Argos to begin play at BMO Field as early as next season. That's pending renovations needed to accommodate the CFL field but they're expected to be completed in time for the football franchise to play at the lakefront stadium in 2016.

The Argos will play this season at Rogers Centre. Their lease there is to expire after the 2017 campaign although they have the option of leaving earlier if they find a new venue.

The announcement will cap roughly a year of talks between Argos owner David Braley and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. It was generally accepted that the sale of the team and lease agreement at BMO would be announced together but the deal had to be completed by June 1 for the football team to have any chance of playing at Exhibition Place in 2016.

Absent from the deal is Rogers Communications, which is part of the MLSE ownership group with Bell and Tanenbaum. Rogers was reportedly not interested in acquiring the 142-year-old franchise, likely because it has no ties to the CFL while Bell has a vested interest in the league through its broadcast affiliate TSN.

Rogers, which owns the Rogers Centre and Toronto Blue Jays, prompted the Argo search for a new home by telling them the plan to install grass in the domed facility meant they had to leave.

Braley, who also owns the B.C. Lions, assumed assumed control of the Argos in February 2010 from Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

While Cynamon and Sokolowski tried to move the Argos from Rogers Centre, Braley remained committed to the CFL club playing there. However, Braley has said repeatedly in recent months that fan discontent with the dome prompted him to begin looking for an alternative home venue for the storied franchise.

Fans have long complained about the lack of atmosphere at Rogers Centre, where Toronto averaged under 20,000 spectators last year in a stadium that can hold over 50,000 fans for football. Also, the Argos have found it difficult to secure decent home dates because of stiff competition from baseball and special events.

BMO Field, a city-owned stadium that's home to Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, is undergoing a $120-million renovation with MLSE footing most of the bill. MLSE owns TFC and managed the stadium.

The first phase, completed earlier this month, added some 8,000 seats in the form of a second tier to the east stand, as well as more premium club options.

The second phase, to be completed by May 2016, involves putting on a canopy around three sides of the lakefront stadium as well as installing a new audio and lighting system.

To convert the field for CFL play, the seats in the north stand will have to be reconfigured while the first seven or eight rows in the south stand will have to be converted into retractable, removable seats.

New, bigger dressing rooms will also have to be built to accommodate football.

Bob Hunter, MLSE's chief project development officer, estimated the cost of CFL conversion at anywhere from $20 million to $23 million.

Some soccer fans have opposed the idea of converting BMO Field for the Argos, contending that CFL play will impact the quality of the playing surface. A banner saying "No Argos BMO'' was hung on the south stands at the last Toronto FC home game.

Outgoing MLSE CEO and president Tim Leiweke insists soccer fans will notice no difference if CFL football is played at the stadium.

Others hope that the move to a more intimate setting from the cavernous Rogers Centre will help revive football in Toronto, as it did in Montreal.

Neither source would confirm specific details of the sale, which reportedly includes two Grey Cup games being held at BMO Field. The first would be the 2016 CFL championship game.



Anonymous said...

Promising them 2 grey cups means that they got the team for nothing. The profits from a grey cups will be more than they paid for the franchise.
Not sure why everyone is so stunned that Rogers had no interest in buying a team that loses money every year and helps prop up their biggest rival.

Anonymous said...

Time to boycott Rogers services, kudos to Bell to stay Canadian not American wannabee such as Rogers honchos in Toronto.

Anonymous said...

The CFL needs to have some type of David Braley memorial award. This man single handedly has saved the CFL. It started when he went to Hamilton, then B.C, and this with Toronto.

I'm a CFL diehard. Thank you David Braley.

Y'er Welcome

Anonymous said...

Rogers sucks.

Anonymous said...

We should probably wait till he dies...

Anonymous said...

2 grey cups will pay for the $20 million in upgrades to make BMO CFL ready. Great news for the CFL, Toronto is wannabe NFL city, but the CFL TV ratings in southern Ontario indicate a significant fan base for 3 down football.
I refuse to have any Rogers products and applaud Bell for there commitment to the CFL


Anonymous said...

Obama - If you only knew the "real" story you would sing a different tune.

Anonymous said...

Rogers is nothing but a whining beeaatch!

Forever trying to rid Argos from Toronto (surely a death nail for the CFL), they abused the Argos and did everything they could to simply get that team out of their stadium and city. The NFL was there only goal (with Buffalo now sold to someone else, Rogers will likely never achieve that goal); the NFL is not planning a move to Toronto any time soon.

So instead of embracing the Argos, and to include them as an actual part of the MLSE ownership, instead Bell and Tattenbam had to go it themselves. Rogers is acting like whiney spoiled kids that never got there way.

Although I am very happy for the Argos and also that they can finally move to an outdoor facility, the only thing better would have been to have been if they were bought by the actual MLSE Sports ownership group (that includes Rogers). But that too, won't happen any time soon.

Rogers sucks!

Riders rule!

Long live the CFL!

Kel in Victoria
(hey, how about a team out here?) I know I know... not going to happen...

Anonymous said...

Been boycotting Rogers for years because of this. Spending $70 plus million for a handful game of games. Love what Ricky Foley has said about the news with the Argos and the Leafs.

Anonymous said...

Rogers isn't hard to boycott. Their cellular network covers about 1% of our province.