Will York get chilly reception?

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

There is a romanticism about football and there is also reality when it comes to playing outdoors.

On a summer night, when the weather is kind and comfortable, it is easy to appreciate the game.

In the fall, when the Canadian climate starts to become a factor, football adopts a whole different personality.

Except in Toronto. Weather is a non-issue because pro football is played indoors in a climate-controlled stadium that might seem sterile to some but at least makes up for that in comfort.

All this will change when a new outdoor stadium is built by the Argonauts and the Canadian Soccer Association. The two sports bodies will announce plans for a 25,000-seat football/soccer stadium today at York University, where the $70-million edifice will be built and, if everything goes according to schedule, be ready for use in 2006.

Presumably, it will include all the modern amenities and infrastructure to make it the place to be for football and soccer events and both the Argos and the CSA will wax poetically about how sports should be played outdoors, regardless of the weather.

On the days in which the sun is shining and the temperature is tolerable, there will be nary a complaint about the weather, but the first sign of snow, wind or rain and people will be longing for the comfort of the SkyDome.

NO SAFEGUARDS

When the game is played outdoors, there are no safeguards against the weather unless, of course, the stadium is equipped with a retractable roof. And that won't be an option at the new stadium at York. That's why the teams that play in the new building -- and the people who pay to sit in the stands -- will be exposed to the elements, for better or worse.

Saturday's game between the Argos and Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium illustrated how weather can be a factor.

A much-anticipated snowstorm never happened, but high-profile Argos running back John Avery said the chilly conditions made it hard on his hands and he couldn't squeeze the ball. Avery fumbled twice, which killed drives, but theoretically inclement conditions are exactly what Avery and his teammates could face if they make it to the Grey Cup -- and right now that's a long ways away -- which will be played outdoors in Ottawa at Frank Clair Stadium on Nov. 21.

Much has to happen for the Argos to make it to the championship game, beginning with a win against Hamilton this Thursday at the SkyDome. If the Argos beat the Tiger-Cats, they clinch second place in the East and get home-field advantage for the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 5. If they lose Thursday's game, the two teams will be tied in the standings going into the final week of the season.

The Eastern final is indoors in Montreal at the Big Owe instead of Molson Stadium because it's a chance to make money selling three times as many tickets. The Big Owe will help the teams playing because they won't have to worry about the elements.

The Argos have a better chance of succeeding in a weather-controlled environment. They rely more on finesse than power on offence, preferring to move the ball through the air than on the ground. Teams that are able to establish a run game can tough it out in smash-mouth football regardless of the conditions. In fact, the worse the weather the better.

Weather should not be used as an excuse anyway, unless the game is played in frigid conditions, the likes of which propane heaters are needed on the sidelines and parkas and mitts are required. But everyone reacts differently to cold.

In the meantime, the SkyDome never looked so warm and inviting to the Argos -- and certainly for Avery -- as it does now.


Photos