The future of Toronto's stadium landscape is about to change.
Rogers Communications Inc. is close to completing the purchase of the SkyDome from current owner Sportsco International for almost $30 million, sources said yesterday.
Sportsco, a Chicago-based group of investors, bought the SkyDome in February 1999 from a consortium that included current Toronto Argonauts co-owner Howard Sokolowski for $80 million.
Rogers has been trying to purchase the SkyDome since buying the Blue Jays four years ago. The Jays are the only one of 30 major-league teams that play in a stadium owned by a private company.
An announcement of the sale is pending the completion of certain financial details, including a title sponsor, which is expected to be Staples.
Meanwhile, the Argos, who are in the midst of a three-year lease with Sportsco, will announce on Monday that they are planning to build a 25,000-seat outdoor stadium, in conjunction with the Canadian Soccer Association, on the grounds of the main campus at York University.
It's believed the total cost of the project will be $70 million, including a combined $35 million from the federal and provincial governments, $15 million from York and a combined $20 million from Sokolowski and partner David Cynamon.
While there is no title sponsor for the stadium lined up at the moment, sources suggest Siemens could end up paying for that right. Siemens already is engaged with the Argos in the sponsorship of an award for a high-school coach and had talked to previous Argos owner Sherwood Schwarz about becoming a title sponsor in his plans to build a stadium.
Sokolowski would not divulge details of his stadium talks with York, but welcomed the chance to work with Rogers and Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey if the SkyDome deal goes through with Sportsco.
"I'm very respectful of Paul," Sokolowski said. "I've respected Paul for 20 years as a politician, publisher and president of the Blue Jays. To sit down with Paul and discuss (the business of the Argos and the SkyDome), I feel very comfortable. He's a gentleman and he's a man of integrity."
Argos owners have suffered under the arrangement with Sportsco because of a lack of quality dates for the 10 games they annually play at the SkyDome. Sokolowski and Cynamon have been furious that the Argos have had to play three games in 10 days three times this season because Sportsco refused to provide the team with dates it requested. The Argos also had to play four consecutive games away from home in almost six weeks because of bookings at the SkyDome.
"That's not tolerable and beyond that, why we need to control our own stadium," Sokolowski said.