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from the Toronto Star...

Mar. 3, 2005. 09:11 AM

York-Argos stadium deal rubs the wrong way



If and when the 25,000-seat stadium for the Argonauts is ever built at York University, here's the perfect name for it.

They could call it the York Massage Parlour — where some York board members give each other back rubs.

The time to pull the plug on this project is right now — especially when one considers the changing status of the SkyDome, now sometimes called the Rogers Centre. Save the taxpayers the $35 million — half the alleged projected cost — plus whatever the Argonaut co-owners, Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, would save for making their $20 million contribution to the stadium costs a tax-deductible charitable donation.

Last Saturday, the Star's Kevin Donovan raised some questions about York's very interesting land dealings with Sokolowski, as partially negotiated in York's behalf by Joe Sorbara. Monday in the Ontario legislature the deal was described as "shady.'' Sometimes those MPPs are so polite.

That Joe Sorbara, by the way, is the same Joe Sorbara who has acknowledged business ties to Sokolowski's development company, yet was operating as a volunteer for York. He is sure he didn't gain anything personally.

It raises a question, at least here: Why wouldn't York leave negotiating on untendered land completely to professionals? Why would it involve a volunteer who's also a business associate of another party in the deal?

Another item to wonder about: Why would the university drop the idea of receiving a payment of $5,000 per house sold because, according to a York official, "it was too hard to monitor.'' Let's see. You find a bright kid — there are a few of them at York — and say, "Listen, Bosco, count the houses and multiply by $5,000. Then report back here.'' It doesn't sound too tough.

These are things a guy could ask York president Lorna Marsden — except she won't speak to Star reporters.

Here's another: How can taxpayers feel comfortable about getting into bed with York for a stadium, in light of these and other developments?

Board chair Mickey Cohen, who used to run the country's finances when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, says a probe will be launched into the land deal.

Pending that decision, what about the impending stadium deal, involving many of the same principals? Should it proceed?

Further, given the SkyDome's new status, why is a York stadium still being considered at all? Since the York announcement last October, the SkyDome has changed hands. New ownership, according to Paul Godfrey, is much more amenable to the Argos as tenants. Godfrey said the joint will provide the weekend dates the Argos say they need. It already has replaced the battered turf on which the Argos played — for five seasons after the NFL rejected the turf as unsuitable for even an exhibition game.

That's new turf and new dates in a building for which taxpayers already have tossed hundreds of millions down the rabbit hole. So why, now, do we need to spend another $35 million on a stadium that is otherwise unnecessary? York doesn't need a 25,000-seat facility; it draws crowds in the dozens and hundreds for its sports teams. The Argos aren't going to own the place — not unless they have negotiated the kind of sweetheart deal with York that could leave more people than Lorna Marsden speechless.

If both sides feel they need a new stadium, for whatever reason, then let them spend their own money — not ours — for it. York, judging by its performance on the land deal, must have plenty to burn.

One other minor item is the soccer people and the world 2007 junior championship, the very existence of which was part of the gun put to many heads to make this deal go. Well, the soccer folks can play in the SkyDome, too. As that international series with Celtic and Roma and so on showed nicely last summer, a temporary real-grass field can be stitched together in the SkyDome that proves quite adequate.

We can't afford to keep making terrible stadium decisions with public money.

Especially, given the recent stories, we can't afford to make a terrible decision at and with York.

Additional articles by Dave Perkins

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and in other news from the same paper but in the Business section a story that "GM invests in innovation". $2.5 billion in improvements

But then in the fourth paragraph it admits that federal and provincial governments are providing $435 million in aid.

Nothing wrong with that I guess.

Perkins has been against a new stadium when it was announced at the CNE grounds, Varsity site, and here from Day 1. He was against Canada hosting the Olympics.

Not bribing GM to improve their plant would have them attracted to a location that would then no '500 extra jobs' extra shift etc. Who said 'sometimes to make a buck you have to spend a buck?'

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I agree with you 100% Robin. The interesting thing about the auto industry is that Honda and Toyota have never asked for handouts when building new plants in Canada. Yet the so called 'big three' won't start any new projects without dipping their hands into public funds.

Perkins makes me sick. Where was his outrage when the Ricoh Centre was being built? Or when MLSE was given a sweet deal to run it? At least we will use the York U. stadium to host a major international tournament. I can't stand people with no vision.

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I don't disagree with your point. But I do believe that the Ricoh centre was entirely privately financed.

Perkins is not a soccer fan. Therefore he has no clue about the importance of the York stadium and what it means for soccer. Nor does he care by the sounds of it.

Oddly he makes the point that the Skydome could be used for soccer. It's a good point, but his logic is all wrong. He cites the example of the two champions world games being played there but he obviously doesn't know about the efforts, cost and practicality of installing and/or importing the sod. However because of his lack of knowledge about fifa approved surfaces, he missed an opportunity to give weight to his argument that the Skydome could be used for soccer given that the new surface planned would be FIFA approved, just like york facility. Had he rewritten his final paragraph that the new surface at skydome would be more or less the same surface approved for the York U and hence there was no need for the York facility, then even the soccer fans would have a hard time disputing his point.

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The Ricoh Coliseum renovations cost $38 mil. Ricoh paid $10 mil. for the naming rigths. The City of Toronto kicked in $9 mil plus $20 mil in loan guarantees (which I believe they are now stuck with). The city then created a new lease with MLSE.

As for the feeling on the York U. stadium. Other then the call from that asshat Perkins, I don't think there is anything substantial to indicate that the stadium project is not moving forward. They were supposed to break ground in a couple of months.

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Excuse the pedantry for the moment, Perkins isn't a "sportscaster" rather a sportswriter.

However, this is about the 2nd or 3rd article he's written demanding that the stadium not be built. I don't know what is up his ass - he's so adamant about it you'd think the entire cost was coming out of his pocket. He's incredibly ignorant for a sports writer about the need for a new stadium for soccer, and he makes no mention of the possibility of the MLS coming to Toronto, because he isn't aware. After all, why would a sportswriter in Toronto be aware that an incredibly well-known and famous Toronto sports organization is interested in bringing a major league soccer team to a soccer-mad Toronto? And if they were aware, why would they want to report about it in a Toronto paper? After all, we Torontonians can get all of our news about the possibility of a Toronto MLS team from US journalists.

I don't think there is any worry that the stadium won't be built. I haven't come across anyone who has been persuaded by this baseball writer, they all think he's a nut. What is disappointing is that the Star has a new soccer writer named Cathal Kelly who writes about Soccer once a week in the Star. Not only was there no rebuttal from him, but he's been writing for about 6 weeks now and there is no indication whatsoever that this guy is even aware that soccer is played in Canada (even though we've even won a game during that time). No mention by him of Canada's Gold Cup group, & I bet there will be no mention of the upcoming match against Portugal or the U20 draw next week, if his track record is anything to go on.

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I wasn't necessarily asking the question about whether the facility will actually be built because of this nut-job. I guess I'm just jittery until there is actually a shovel put in the ground or some final concrete drawings on the project released. So is the life of Canadian soccer fan, I suppose.

From the outside looking in (which I am here in Alberta), I just read about the refurbishment of Skydome, er, Rogers Centre, and positive comments about it from Sokolowski and Cynamon, not to mention a much better schedule for the Argos, and begin to have visions of the primary private partners pulling the plug on the York facility. Just my own insecurities, I guess. ;)

I agree about the lack of qualified soccer writers in Toronto and elsewhere. Papers, radio stations and television networks have all these staffers who have only a knowledge base of hockey with enough of a sprinkling of football, golf and baseball to get by on those sports.

Meanwhile we have not only soccer ongoing but Canadians winning world championships and medals in a variety of winter sports (speed skating, bobsled, skeleton, et al) only five years before this country hosts the winter Olympics, yet they only get a passing mention 20 minutes-plus into all three Canadian national sportscasts.

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quote:Originally posted by Gian-Luca

What is disappointing is that the Star has a new soccer writer named Cathal Kelly who writes about Soccer once a week in the Star. Not only was there no rebuttal from him, but he's been writing for about 6 weeks now and there is no indication whatsoever that this guy is even aware that soccer is played in Canada (even though we've even won a game during that time). No mention by him of Canada's Gold Cup group, & I bet there will be no mention of the upcoming match against Portugal or the U20 draw next week, if his track record is anything to go on.

I noticed that as well. But I will reserve judgement for the moment on him. The test will will come with the U20 championships in June. There won't be much Euro club soccer to write about and the U20 is the the most pretigious soccer event that canada will be involved in for the next two years.

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My 2 cents...

1. Sports media in Toronto are so unbelievable miserable. So many writers and some of them at the FAN, I couldn't even imagine what they would be like if they did real news.

2. Sports stadiums add nothing to the economy. It's been proven in all those American cities with brand new stadiums. Factories do.

3. The Leafs really scammed the city on the completely publically funded Ricoh Centre.

4. The article mentioned from last Saturday basically showed that Sokolowski's firm paid roughly half what he should have. Saved something like $15 million. Which is coincidently roughly how much he would be putting into the project after tax savings.

I really have no problem with people making money, even if everything is not completely above board, as long as things get done. But I think this new stadium is dumb. It should be at the CNE or Varsity.

As for 2007, why not use the Dome? Looking at the 2005 qualifiers, most countries could pack the place. Korea, China, Japan, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, Netherlands. All these countries have sizeable ex-pat communities. Chances are most countries that qualify do. I know this is Canada, but why not aim big?

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quote:Originally posted by canso

If Rogers Sportsnet is to be the home of soccer broadcasts, don't you think Rogers Skydome should/will be the home of Canadian soccer?

Hmmm, sure :(. Just like TSN was the home of Canadian soccer and CBC was the home of the Olympics. Basing stadium decisions on TV contracts is a ridiculous precept.

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not so ridiculous 'canso', as Ted has a track record of wanting to consolodate his assests (to save himself a buck), but that would only be in play if he was involved in the ownership of a potential team (obviously an MLS team, not owning the Nats).

As to 'Andrew W', fear not, this project will absolutely go ahead, for no other reason than I'm against it, and I never ever win in these matters.

I think that two, three years on (after initial resounding success) the location and nature of the facility (when people realize, you can't drink in a parking lot in Ontario)won't hold up as they (the planners) hope. If it were grass I may be more open to supporting it, but if the same surface is available downtown then what is the draw? Remember the touch lines for Celtic-roma were no more than 6 meters from the stands.

The tail gating and field turf loving are wecolme to criticize me but I cane help how I feel. peace

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Dave Perkins is well on his way to surpassing Bob McCown as the biggest soccer-hating moron in the Toronto media - he haw written another article today, this time stating his opposition to the MLSE getting an MLS team - not because he believes it will ruin the chances of a Canadian team, but because its "silly" because nobody likes soccer in Toronto. He even believes Bruno Hartrell's comment that the Lynx have "tried everything" in terms of getting crowds out to the game - yeah, everything except for the tiny, rather insignificant factors of MARKETING (of which they do not at all to the general public), COURTING THE MEDIA & GETTING MEDIA COVERAGE (of which they often complian they get none of) and PLAYING IN A PROFESSIONAL VENUE & PRESENTING A PROFESSIONAL PRODUCT. The fact that Perkins is using Hartrell quotes to back up his own prejudices against soccer I think speaks for itself - on both counts.

The good news is that the possibility of the MLS coming to Toronto seems more real than ever now, since the anti-soccer morons in the media have now become so concerned about its possibility they feel the need to shout out against it. Thankfully the opinion of Dave Perkins means jack squat to the reality of the situation (and that's putting it nicely).

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Here's the offending article:

Latest soccer bid sad, familiar

Stadium motivates MLSE's proposal



Your friends at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment can smell taxpayers' money, so here they come again with their hands out.

MLSE eyes $35 million in our money that, pending an outbreak of good sense, will be thrown away on a 25,000-seat stadium at York University. MLSE snaps its fingers and says, "Hey, let's try something that's never been done before. Pro soccer in Toronto. How could it miss?"

Thus the silliness that MLSE, having driven its basketball team into the ground, now plans to seriously look into an expansion team for 2007 from Major League Soccer.

No one — repeat, no one — can pee in your ear and tell you it's raining quite like the troops at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Richard Peddie, MLSE's mahatma of marketing, suggests that the board not only "is interested in winning championships, but in increasing enterprise value." To that end, MLSE is "running out of runway in how to grow revenue."

Well, how about starting by selling those 5,000 empty seats for the Raptors most nights? How about making that team attractive to sponsors, advertisers and TV viewers? That's a start. Peddie, remember, was part of the crew that acquired Rob Babcock, whose tenure as general manager has been utter disaster so far. This team is dead last in the worst division in basketball — some say in the history of basketball — and, like the other night in Dallas, gets embarrassed by other teams' second- and third-stringers. If this keeps up, the coach will soon run out of players to fight with.

So what about fixing this mess first?

Anyway, we were talking soccer and Peddie, who should know better, repeats that old chestnut about soccer being "a sport of the future." Why? Because so many kiddies play it.

This has been a constant in the 32 years yours truly has been hunting-and-pecking sports in this city. The number of kids who play soccer is trotted out as every answer to any soccer question. In reality, it means nothing. Soccer is a great game for kids and a cheap one to participate in, but one-time childhood participation does not translate into support for professional soccer. Never has and never will.

For whatever reasons, pro soccer, which has been tried a million times, doesn't go here. Support for the beautiful game is compartmentalized; the Premier League fans don't watch Serie A and so on. Big-name international teams on one-time appearances sell well. A league is a different story. As Bruno Hartrell of the Toronto Lynx told colleague Allan Ryan, "We've tried to sell soccer tickets in this market for nine years and have a pretty good idea of who buys. ... We're not missing anything."

MLSE, despite the drivel about kids playing soccer and so on, knows exactly what this is about. That planned York venue. Whatever a soccer team costs — possibly $9 million (U.S.) for starters — and whatever it loses are easy tax write-offs. What MLSE really seeks, as main tenant, ahead of the Argonauts, would be some kind of control of another taxpayer-built stadium.

MLSE came swooping in after the Roadrunners went toes up and plucked the chickens who went ahead with city money for the Ricoh Coliseum — which, please notice, sits idly now, providing zero local pro hockey alternative as the NHL lockout drags on. MLSE now has Ricoh in its pocket. It already owns the Air Canada Centre. Just last week, it made the big pitch to get the contract to run the proposed $45 million Oshawa Gardens — unless city councillors in Oshawa see the light and run for their lives.

Remember, too, when the mighty Leafs were willing to pitch in for the proposed Varsity arena/stadium project — and meanwhile take those 180 metres of commercial retail space on Bloor St. off U of T's hands. Just to be neighbourly.

Now it's casting eyes northward toward York and if it's soccer that gives them the foot in the door for another new venue paid for by somebody else, well, soccer it is. Do you know how many kids play it?


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I think somebody in the other thread said it's anti-soccer, not really, it's more anti-Maple Leaf. He makes many valid points.

1. Peddie said the Leafs board "is interested in winning championships", that would hurt too much to even joke about.

2. MLSE is "running out of runway in how to grow revenue."??? - I agree with Perkins, the Raptors have huge room to grow, I'm not saying the market is there, I'm saying the Raptors are peanuts. Besides, how many events have they had at the Ricoh? And how many people subscribe to Leafs TV and Raptors/NBA TV? Never mind they stopped publishing their Leafs and Raptors magazines this year. So as a corporation they have huge areas they can grow in.

3. If Peddie said soccer is "a sport of the future," because so many kiddies play it, he should be shot.

4. This is about control. The Leafs control the Ricoh so they control the much more lucrative concert and event-show market. If anybody is looking for a midsize arena concert/event for 5-30 000 people, they have to talk to the Leafs. This stadium fits in perfect with that. The Baby Leafs could easily play at the ACC. Or even a renovated Maple Leaf Gardens. And if the Leafs cared about hockey, why are they not supporting St. Mikes OHL team especially this season, I'm sure they could have worked something out where they could have played at the ACC or even the Ricoh, and made it financially work for both.

Now, he should have left out the Lynx quotes cause make him, and the Lynx, look like a fools.

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