Cap key to any CFL expansion

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:24 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Something just did not seem quite right as our line cut in and out yesterday morning.

There was Tom Wright, who is still negotiating a contract extension to remain CFL commissioner, on a teleconference call from Halifax trumpeting tonight's pre-season game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a litmus test for possible expansion into that Nova Scotia harbour city.

In the same breath, Wright -- who has reportedly been asked to take a pay cut -- said there will be no expansion anywhere until the CFL introduces an enforceable salary cap.

FUNDAMENTAL

"It is fundamental to our business model," Wright said. "Not all of our clubs make money now but hopefully, by the end of the decade, or by the time of expansion, that will not be the case."

Although there is a cap now, it has never been enforced. If the CFL governors ever do agree to an enforceable cap, they would still need approval from the CFL Players' Association as its collective bargaining agreement expires after this season.

Wright, who has yet to ink a new pact that would assure him of sticking around beyond this season, said committees are currently working on sorting out all of those details and he believes that such a cap will be in place before the 2006 season. He is hoping to add a 10th team to the circuit by 2008.

SOLD OUT

Although tonight's match has been sold out at St. Mary's University, where temporary stands have been added to reach a capacity of 11,000, there is still the sticky issue of erecting a new stadium at a reported cost of about $70 million. Wright believes a 25,000-seat venue, which could also host other events, is necessary to operate a successful franchise. Although some local businesses are anxious to get involved, some local politicians have expressed doubts, even if Halifax is expected to boom in the next decade or so. Wright did say the CFL will still consider other sites, such as Moncton, N.B., and Quebec City.

Wright has already discussed possible stadium plans with locals but much will be determined by the CFL's post-event analysis. However, he is encouraged by the enthusiasm of others in Halifax. They paid $62.50 and $40 for tickets. And a study has already shown that games could draw an average of 20,000 from the Halifax area alone, never mind the surrounding communities and provinces. The city has also proven it can host such wildly successful events as world junior hockey and the Brier (2003) recently.

"I'm excited about this opportunity," Wright said. "I'm confident that the league will continue to grow.

"We are ready for expansion and that's why this game is so important. But we need to make decisions and we need to make them quickly."

One of those will be whether the governors will agree to Wright's terms to continue as commish.

"I'm very encouraged that I will be able to finish what I started," Wright said. "Now I'm looking forward to the kitchen party (last night), and I may even have one or two beers."

TSN, by the way, will televise the game today at 6 p.m.


Videos

Photos