Realty One

Friday, June 10, 2016


TORONTO - It doesn't count in the standings but the Toronto Argonauts' exhibition opener Saturday versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats is significant for defensive end Ricky Foley and his teammates.

The contest will be Toronto's first at a refurbished BMO Field. The Argos - under the new ownership of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Bell Canada - are moving to the outdoor stadium after 27 seasons at the domed Rogers Centre.

Argos players will arrive at BMO Field earlier than usual Saturday to get the lay of the land at their new home, which received a $150-million facelift this off-season.

"This team has been through a great deal over the past few seasons but that's all over now and I can't wait,'' said Foley, a native of nearby Courtice, Ont. ``BMO Field is going to be electric.

"It's a new beginning for this franchise, my teammates and our fans, as well as an opportunity to win another Grey Cup at home.''

Toronto opens the regular season June 23 hosting Hamilton at BMO Field. The 2016 campaign will also end there with the Grey Cup game Nov. 27.

Although Rogers Centre had a capacity exceeding 52,000 for football, the Argos struggled to attract spectators there. The CFL club's attendance last year dropped to 12,431 after averaging 17,791 in 2014.

Fans often complained about the proximity of the field as well a cold and antiseptic atmosphere at Rogers Centre.

The football capacity at BMO Field - owned by the City of Toronto and operated by MLSE, the owners of Major League Soccer's Toronto FC - will be roughly 27,000. Argos officials feel the cozier confines will result in a better fan experience.

Seating at BMO Field will be increased to 38,000 for the Grey Cup game in November.

The Argos will have a lavish 10,000-square-foot (930-square-metre) dressing room under the east stand. Players will have plug-ins at their stalls for their electronic devices and white boards located at opposite ends of the dressing room will be available for coaches to use before games and at half-time.

The visitors' locker-room in the west stand measures 6,000 square feet (557 square metres) and both team benches will be located on the same side of the field during games.

BMO Field's playing surface will be natural grass but the 20-yard end zones will consist of artificial turf. More than 130,000 bolts were used in the renovation and the former lighting system that was mounted on four poles was replaced by a new one consisting of 500-plus lights spread around the roof.

For many football purists, the move to BMO Field signifies a return to the Argos' heyday when they played outdoors at Exhibition Stadium. The franchise spent 30 seasons on the CNE grounds before relocating to Rogers Centre in '89.

And the chance to play for a revitalized franchise was one reason why defensive back Keon Raymond signed with Toronto as a free agent after eight seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

"Rarely do you have the chance to be part of something new,'' he said. "With me having that opportunity, I wanted to take it.''

Both teams will substitute players liberally throughout the game, especially at quarterback.

Toronto will start Logan Kilgore under centre, with incumbent Ricky Ray playing no more than two series in the second quarter. Veteran Adrian McPherson and youngster Cody will finish up.

Kilgore is looking forward to seeing Toronto's new digs but will be careful to keep everything in proper perspective.

"It's great for us to get out to BMO Field, our first time as a team on that field,'' he said. "There's going to be a lot of extra things going around but I'm just thinking about going out there and completing passes and keep everybody calm and efficient.''

Hamilton coach/GM Kent Austin also expects to use a lot of players, including youngsters Jacory Harris, Jeremiah Masoli and Jeff Mathews at quarterback. With incumbent Zach Collaros still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, the race is still wide open for the Ticats' No. 1 job to start the season.

"We're still evaluating and the games are a piece of that puzzle,'' Austin said. "I'm anxious to see how everybody responds. ''

"It's always great to play the Argos and it's an easy trip down the road for us so that's good as well. It's a new stadium, that's also a positive too. It will let us be more familiar with the field surface and environment itself.''

(Canadian Press)


Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see BMO field hosting CFL on tv

Anonymous said...

Tough loss for Mr Austin and the oskee wee wee.