Sun sets on Varsity

Keith Pelley, president and CEO of the Argos, and part owner Howard Soklolowski were all smiles...

Keith Pelley, president and CEO of the Argos, and part owner Howard Soklolowski were all smiles standing at the site of the future home of the club earlier this year. Plans for the Varsity Stadium project fell through yesterday. (Toronto Sun File/David Lucas)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Now that the University of Toronto has dropped plans to build a football/soccer stadium on its downtown site, expect the project to shift uptown to York University's main campus.

CONFIRMATION

Sources indicated yesterday that the Canadian Soccer Association and the Argonauts -- partners in a proposed 25,000-seat outdoor stadium -- will begin discussions with York.

An announcement confirming York likely will be made in a few months.

Bud Purves, the president of York University's development corporation, said the school couldn't answer specifically whether it would be interested in a new stadium complex but would be open to discussion.

"York always responds to positive public pressure," Purves said. "We're a keen, mobile, positive organization. York is always receptive (to business ventures). York is about doing the best thing at all times."

York has available land, is in the heart of an expanding residential/business community and has been mentioned as being part of an expanded subway line within the decade.

When Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon bought the Argos last November and vowed to build a new stadium, they commissioned a study to identify sites most appealing to the fan base. U of T's Varsity location, Exhibition Place and York University's northern campus were short-listed.

Then Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. entered into negotiations with U of T on a multiple sports complex/shopping centre in the varsity area. The CSA, which had unveiled plans for a potential soccer/football stadium at Exhibition Place but lacked the funding, joined MLSEL's bid, along with the Argos.

When MLSEL dropped out this spring because the venture didn't provide a reasonable financial return to its backers, the Argos and the CSA carried forward with U of T.

The federal and provincial governments have pledged $35 million if a stadium is built and the CSA has acquired the rights to hold the world youth championship in 2007.

The U of T announced yesterday it was withdrawing from the project because of rising costs.

"The university was excited about the benefits of Varsity Centre, but not at any cost," Jon Dellandrea, U of T's vice-president and chief advancement officer, said in a press release.

"Due to the design complexities related to size and configuration of the project, costs have risen from an $80-million project to one far in excess of $100 million. We feel that moving ahead with the proposal isn't economically responsible and not in keeping with our commitments to our partners. This partnership was prepared on an $80-million project.

"This is now unrealistic."

Sokolowski said he and Cynamon were "sad and disappointed" about U of T's decision.

"It's unfortunate what happened, but we are determined and resolved to take the project and find a suitable site," Sokolowski said.

"It is a financially capable project."

Sokolowski said the Argos and the CSA are talking with representatives of other potential sites.


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