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New Stadium proposed for Varsity Site


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New stadium proposed for Varsity site

Students would share facility with Argos if UofT reaches deal with Tanenbaum


Thursday, November 20, 2003 - Page A15

Larry Tanenbaum, co-owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, is in discussions with the University of Toronto about building a stadium on the campus.

Under Mr. Tanenbaum's proposal, the stadium would be used by the Toronto Argonauts and the university's athletic programs. The facility would be built on the site of Varsity Stadium, which was torn down last year.

Jon Dellandrea, U of T's vice-president of development, said Mr. Tanenbaum approached the university earlier this month about the project. Two meetings have been held and more are planned, he said.

"He came to us with some ideas as to how one might meet the needs of the U of T and also accommodate the community more broadly," Mr. Dellandrea said.

He added that the university is open to the plan so long as it meets the needs of the students.

"If we could see a process and a deal whereby first-rate facilities were built on the Varsity site, at no cost to the University of Toronto, that accommodated the needs of our students while at the same time accommodating other purposes, absolutely we are interested."

Mr. Tanenbaum was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

David Cynamon, one of the new owners of the Argonauts, confirmed that the club is discussing the plan with Mr. Tanenbaum.

"It is an option. It has been presented to us and I think that over the next few months all the details will be a lot clearer," he said.

He added that Mr. Tanenbaum is not an investor in the Argos, but he is a close friend.

Mr. Cynamon said he did not know whether Mr. Tanenbaum would build the project himself or through Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Leafs and Raptors.

It also is not clear whether the Argo owners would finance construction or simply rent space from Mr. Tanenbaum. "It's really too early to tell. We don't have those kind of details yet," he said.

Mr. Cynamon and Toronto developer Howard Sokolowski bought the Argos this month and they have said they want to build a new stadium for the club. Mr. Cynamon said they want a 25,000-seat venue that would cost anywhere from $35-million to $70-million to build.

He and Mr. Sokolowski also are considering a site on the campus of York University and they have approached university officials. Mr. Cynamon noted that much of the Argo fan base lives north of Toronto and a stadium at York would be viable. However, he said the prospect of a downtown site at the U of T is also attractive.

Mr. Tanenbaum is interested only in the Varsity-Stadium-site project and would not likely participate in a York University project, Mr. Cynamon added.

Another option is the city-owned land on the Exhibition grounds. However, the terms that the city has raised so far have made that option less attractive, he said.

Former Argo owner Sherwood Schwarz had a tentative deal with outgoing mayor Mel Lastman last spring to build a 22,000-seat stadium on the grounds for about $30-million. But any project would have to be approved by city council.

The Varsity Stadium site at the U of T has been in limbo since the facility, which was built in 1911, was torn down in the summer of 2002. The university planned to build a $55-million complex on the property that included an eight-lane track, artificial playing field, 5,000-seat stands, recreational facilities, and two ice rinks. But that project was dropped when students voted down a levy to help pay for it.

"We've been left with arguably the most important piece of land in downtown Toronto sitting there and really not meeting the needs of our students," Mr. Dellandrea said.

He added that the Tanenbaum proposal is the only plan under consideration for the site. Mr. Tanenbaum's plans would include recreational facilities, possible renovations to the neighbouring Varsity Arena and some commercial space, he added.

"One could imagine that if you are doing a project of this magnitude, you would take advantage of [the site's] Bloor Street frontage to do some kind of appropriate -- double underline the word appropriate and don't ask me to define it -- some kind of appropriate use."

Mr. Dellandrea said the university is eager to work with Mr. Tanenbaum on the project.

"In these times of constrained resources, when we are concerned about the quality of life for our students both inside and outside the classroom, if we can structure anything that again meets those overriding, pre-eminent needs of the University of Toronto, we are prepared to listen to him."

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This is going to become an interesting debate in soccer, football and university circles if this article holds truth.

I'm interested to know what constitutes the "needs of the students" that Mr. Dellandrea speaks of. Does this mean a multi-plex sort of stadium with a running track? For soccer purposes, this is obviously unwanted.

What makes the needs of York students any different from U of T students? Wouldn't the former needa a running track, too? I wonder if Cynamon's influence at York would means that any stadium build will service the needs of sport before the needs of a student body.

If we can get a stadium built with no track at York then it is viable. That being said, if we can get a stadium with no track at U of T instead then I'm for it ahead of a York site. If both must have a track, then it might as well be downtown, too.

To summarize, where 1 is the most desired

1. U of T with no track

2. York with no track

3. U of T with track

4. York with track

50. Centennial (with track)

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