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How the CSA can save our National Soccer Stadium


KAS

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I know that the threat of the Argos moving to BMO Field is already being discussed on the TFC board, but I would like a separate thread here to discuss what this means to the stadium's status as the National Soccer Stadium, how it affects the national teams, and what the CSA can do to stop it.

Here is a list of five ideas/strategies that the CSA should consider:

1) Inform Toronto City Council that the stadium was built as an SSS and to be the National Soccer Stadium. It should be pointed out that most of the money for the stadium ($35M) came from the CSA (through the provincial and federal governments) for the purposes of building an SSS for the national teams.

2) The CSA should offer their "professional opinion" as "Canada's soccer experts" (don't laugh) on the negative effects that the Argos would have on the grass and how you can't play soccer at a high level on it or attract quality opponents. A threat to take Canadian national team games away from BMO Field would diminish any potential gains of bringing the Argos in as the Argos only play 9-10 games a year.

3) A tricky one to pull off, but the CSA should try to politely inform Mr Young of the Ti-Cats and Ottawa's Hunt group that if they are serious about creating new soccer clubs to play in their new stadiums (which would require CSA sanction) and if they think that their clubs would be more profitable if they were permitted to play in the Voyageurs Cup, then they should start their relationship with the CSA in a positive way by helping with this difficult CFL problem. I know the CSA doesn't have the balls to try this, but don't you wish they did?

4) This might be more MLSE-related, but the CSA should encourage the creation of atleast one more professional soccer club to play in BMO Field, before the Argos can get in, and take away whatever suitable dates remain from the Argos. The creation of a new club could be conditional on the Argos staying out, so city council is offered an alternative option for making more money at BMO Field, but cannot have both. The two best candidates for this would be clubs in either WPS or the new NASL.

The WPS is the best women's league in the world. A Canadian WPS club (probably two - Steve Nash and the Whitecaps are already on this somewhat) would greatly help the WNT. This would also be good politically from a "equal opportunities for women" (see the current fight over ice-time) perspective as any politician favouring a men's CFL team that already has a home over the chance to give Canada its' first professional women's team must be a sexist chauvinistic pig! The WPS generally plays on Sunday evenings and I think some Friday nights, so that would compliment TFC well while blocking out the Argos from preffered dates. The NASL option could include bringing back the Blizzard name/logo/colours for extra appeal. MLSE might want that for a reserve side rather than an independently owned competitor. Although these clubs would not draw as well pergame as the Argos, they would play more games - while doing far less damage.

5) Here's the big one. The CSA is one of the existing tenants at BMO field and even in the Argos submission to City Council they acknowledge that TFC and the CSA would have priority in booking dates at BMO Field. As either a compliment to, or replacement for, the creation of another soccer club at BMO Field, here is how the CSA can really f*ck over the Argos:

The CSA should create a new annual tradition of two Canadian soccer development camps at BMO Field each summer. These camps would consist of various practices, player and coaches clinics, and even one or two friendlies. Both men's and women's national U-14, U-17, U-20, and senior teams could be involved at different times.

Since school-age participants are involved, and you want nice weather for good attendence, the CSA should pick two weekends in the summer while school is out. To be effective, you also need more than just two days for these camps, so four day long weekends would be more appropriate. I would therefore suggest that the CSA use its' status as a primary tenant at BMO Field to sign a deal with MLSE that books the entire Canada Day and Labour Day long weekends for the next twenty years!

Now, I certainly hope that the Argos wouldn't be too upset at not being able to have home games on those two long weekends for the next twenty years! I mean really, home openers on Canada Day are overrated anyways, and since the weather starts to get cooler in September, you would be better off holding every single "Labour Day Classic" at the slightly more southern stadium in Hamilton.

I think you guys get the idea here. BMO Field will always be too small for CFL playoff games or the Grey Cup, so it is just for pre-season (one game) and regular season (nine games) that the Argos want BMO Field for. If you take away the only two regular season home games that can actually fill BMO with PAYING customers, then you make the "Argos@BMO" venture a painfully unprofitable one. The Argo faithfull would also hate the idea of starting every season on the road and seeing every Labour Day Classic played in Hamilton with most of the seats already gone to Ti-Cats fans. I was at the game this year in Hamilton (friend is Ti-Cat STH). It was a great crowd, packed stadium, but shockingly few Toronto fans considering how close it is. I took the GO Train from Whitby to Burlington, so I don't know what their excuse is - other than they can't get in.

The Argos' owners seem to have misunderstood the success of Montreal's CFL team. It is not entirely about moving from a big empty dome to a small outdoor stadium, it is also about moving from an unappealing area with nothing around to a more appealing and accessible downtown spot with tons to do before and after games. The Als actually lose money at Molson Stadium - inspite of having a full building every game - because the capacity is too small. It is only because they are a good team and get to have playoff games in the Big O that they are doing ok. Without the big playoff games, the Als would be bleeding money from just playing at Molson Stadium. That is why they are using their own money to help expand it. If the idiot Argos can't figure out for themselves that moving from a perfectly located 50K seat retractable-roof stadium that they play in rent free to a slightly less well located 20K that is exposed to rain and the wind off the lake is a stupid idea, then we need to help them.

Sorry about the long post. What do you guys think the CSA can and should do to stop the Argos?

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quote:Originally posted by Obinna

http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=2281193

"I don't know if we have any chance [of stopping a relocation]," Montopoli said. "But I would want our voices to be heard and see the terms and conditions according to the agreement that we've all signed for the national soccer stadium, or BMO Field, however you'd like to refer to it."

I saw that quote from Montopoli, and the purpose of my original post - particularly point #5 - is to show that the CSA does have some cards to play and that they probably could stop the Argos if they play those cards intelligently. I know we are talking about the CSA here, but if they do develop a backbone and come out fighting then they can win this.

Montopoli's quote is probably about how it is Toronto City Council that will decide who BMO Field's tenants are. That is certainly true, but as he seems to imply, the CSA can lobby City Council to reject the Argos' proposal. I also believe that they have various carrots and sticks to use with some of the other CFL owners to get the CFL to reject this. If that does not appear to be working, then the CSA should look at my fifth point where i suggest that they use their status as a primary tenant (even the Argos acknowledge that they have priority on booking dates) to completely book the Canada Day and Labour Day long weekends for the next twenty years.

If the Argos lose out on those two valuable long weekends, and if TFC (and possibly another soccer club) book most of the friday night and weekend dates - thereby forcing the Argos to play alot of unpopular midweek games - then the idea won't work for the Argos. If the Argos could be compelled to withdraw their proposal, then the opinion of City Council is irrelevent.

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quote:Originally posted by rodfern2007

I think you guys are screwed. I don't see any way the Argos will be refused access to BMO. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. We will always have those memories.

MLSE didn't get as big as they are without having friends in very, very high places. They won't have to do much in public, but behind the scenes, they'll be making it very, very clear to city council that you don't make the Empire angry. Especially to appease a couple of small-time hustlers such as C&S who don't want the team, anyway.

What's going on is kind of like what happened between the owners of the Leafs and the Raptors when they unveiled competing designs for arenas. Eventually one bought the other. The same thing's going on here -- and C&S are trying to get either Rogers or MLSE to buy the Argos.

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quote:Originally posted by Stephen LaRose

MLSE didn't get as big as they are without having friends in very, very high places. They won't have to do much in public, but behind the scenes, they'll be making it very, very clear to city council that you don't make the Empire angry. Especially to appease a couple of small-time hustlers such as C&S who don't want the team, anyway.

MLSE have made it clear that they have to be careful about what they say because they also have the contract to manage the stadium for the city. They can't show too much public opposition to the Argos, but privately they certainly can. I suspect (and hope) that MLSE and the CSA are working together to keep the Argos out.

MLSE may have to be careful about what they say, but the CSA doesn't. They have a vested interest in all this that they can defend in a very open manner. It may seem odd to think of the CSA as being the vocal attack dogs in a well planned public relations strategy, but they could serve that role. I would not be surprised if the CSA guys who spoke to city officials talked to MLSE first to ensure that they were on the same page. It is entirely possible that MLSE has asked the CSA to speak to city officials and be the ones to explain why playing soccer and Canadian football on the same grass pitch would be a horrible idea.

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quote:Originally posted by KAS

MLSE have made it clear that they have to be careful about what they say because they also have the contract to manage the stadium for the city. They can't show too much public opposition to the Argos, but privately they certainly can. I suspect (and hope) that MLSE and the CSA are working together to keep the Argos out.

MLSE may have to be careful about what they say, but the CSA doesn't. They have a vested interest in all this that they can defend in a very open manner. It may seem odd to think of the CSA as being the vocal attack dogs in a well planned public relations strategy, but they could serve that role. I would not be surprised if the CSA guys who spoke to city officials talked to MLSE first to ensure that they were on the same page. It is entirely possible that MLSE has asked the CSA to speak to city officials and be the ones to explain why playing soccer and Canadian football on the same grass pitch would be a horrible idea.

You're quite right and that's why the CSA's proper role in this is to be the one saying what MLSE can't publicly say -- that this proposed move would be a disaster for soccer in particular, and for all parties in general. Unless the Argos spend $30 million to knock out one of the end zones, they don't have room for a regulation CFL field (and don't look to C&S to pay: the wouldn't pony up the $1K a game to suit up their third string quarterback this season), and if they do, they're going to play in a stadium with only 14,000 good seats for CFL football (fans want the seats between the goal lines in gridiron football).

Then again, we've seen that the CSA couldn't organize a fake orgasm at the Playboy Mansion grotto on Hef's birthday ...

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The biggest problem was that the CSA built a stadium in a place that can only used for part of the year and not all year round for sporting events. That is why the stadium needs the Argos. To provide some revenue for the stadium in the dry months. It's going to happen. The Argos are going to follow the Montreal model of playing in a smaller stadium and moving to Olympic stadium for the playoffs. The Argos will do the same and move to Rogers Centre in the playoffs. (if they make those).

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quote:Originally posted by TT5

The biggest problem was that the CSA built a stadium in a place that can only used for part of the year and not all year round for sporting events. That is why the stadium needs the Argos. To provide some revenue for the stadium in the dry months. It's going to happen. The Argos are going to follow the Montreal model of playing in a smaller stadium and moving to Olympic stadium for the playoffs. The Argos will do the same and move to Rogers Centre in the playoffs. (if they make those).

The stadium doesn't NEED the Argos. BMO Field already makes a profit without them, so this issue is moot. Even if BMO Field needed to be booked more often, that could be easily accomplished by scheduling Canadian national team games and international friendlies, all of which do far less damage to the pitch than gridiron football. I would go as far as to say that the Argos could COST BMO Field money because the wear and tear from gridiron football would limit stadium use.

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quote:Originally posted by Footscray

Can finally put the argos stuff to bed permanently.

The threat of the Argos moving to BMO Field still exists. It will not be an issue for the 2010 season, but it could be in the future.

The stadium may not be suitable for the CFL right now, but it can be made suitable. Although some may point to the cheapness of the current Argos owners as evidence that an expensive conversion will never happen, they do have the money if they want to spend it, and they may sell the club to someone else as early as this winter.

This issue never went to Toronto City Council. Had it done so, the Argos probably would have been allowed in. If a deep-pocketed owner emerged who was offering to expand the stadium (and therefore increase city revenues) on his dime, it would be accepted. It might even be possible to get the city to cover some of the cost of conversion as they would consider it an investment that would pay off with a bigger stadium and a second significant tenant. There would be serious political pressure if there was a possibility of the Argos folding. The next mayor of Toronto will probably not be a TFC season ticket holder like Miller.

The CSA and MLSE should not make the mistake of believing that this issue is completely dead. As things stand, it can always be revived later. Even the CFL's poor opinion of the stadium's current state would probably improve if the Argos were either booted out of Rogers' Stadium, or if they went bankrupt and the potential rescuer made moving to BMO Field a requirement to save them.

Most of the points that I made in the original post are still valid. The CSA and MLSE should continue to try to educate City Council and their staff about the issue. This will have to be repeated after next years election for the newly elected and their staff. The CSA should still consider establishing an annual tradition of having training camps, coaching clinics, and friendlies at BMO Field during the Canada Day and Labour Day long weekends so that they are permanently blocked off and kept away from the Argos. MLSE should still consider giving the stadium a second major tenant (either WPS or NASL - the lacrosse team isn't enough) that can occupy alot of significant dates without needing to alter the stadium. I think that WPS would be best for many reasons, but either a WPS or NASL team would keep the city happy by increasing revenue, while also occupying dates that the Argos might want.

Finally, MLSE needs to be careful with any future renovation and expansion, as they would not want to see their future investments actually increase the chances of the Argos moving in. There were different figures quoted for how much it would cost to make the stadium suitable for CFL. The main ones were $15M and $30M. The reason for the difference is that one just deals with things like increasing field size, while the other accepts that the current capacity is too small for CFL, and that it will cost a similar amount to expand capacity to 28-30K. The great demand for TFC tickets and the huge waiting list may convince MLSE to do more expansion than just the proposed North Stand, but if they add a second level to the East Stand (~6.5K - bringing capacity to ~28K), then BMO Field will become economically viable for a CFL team. At that point, it becomes easier for a future Argos owner and City Council to justify spending money to "fix" the field length, sidelines, and locker rooms.

Before MLSE pays for more expansion, it needs to include language in any new proposal that would alter the existing agreement so that the Argos can be kept out. The proposal for the installation of grass included concessions/sweeteners from MLSE (Lamport renovations + bubble, and outdoor rec field) in exchange for the conditions of the stadium's operations and public use requirements being changed in MLSE's favour. An MLSE proposal that offered to pay all the costs of an expansion - and perhaps the creation of a WPS or NASL team as an additional incentive - might convince the city to change the agreement in such a way as to allow MLSE to keep the Argos out.

Only with such a deal in place can we really be sure that the threat from the Argos is really dead.

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