York campus is a perfect spot

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

On any given Sunday, thousands of football fans in western New York travel to the middle of nowhere or Orchard Park -- whichever comes first -- just to watch a game.

To watch football in New York, either the Giants or the Jets, you have to travel to New Jersey.

To watch the Super Bowl champions in Boston, you have to fight highway traffic for more than an hour, take the one road into Foxboro and eventually take the one road out.

90 MINUTES IN DALLAS

To watch America's team play in Dallas -- actually it plays in Irving -- the 30-minute drive from any downtown hotel can take up to 90 minutes on game day.

And in Cleveland, where no one lives anywhere near downtown, you must travel downtown to the lake to watch the Browns play.

This is part of the culture of football. So, why should Toronto think it's any different? Why should there be so much noise about a stadium being built on the campus of York University, about how off-centre all of this seems when it really isn't so off-centre at all?

Everyone, please take a deep breath and now exhale. This isn't the end of the world as we know it. It's a stadium being built and it's not going to be downtown.

Get used to that. This isn't the Toronto we grew up in, Toto. There are almost a million people in Brampton and Mississauga. There are almost half a million people in Vaughan. The numbers in Oshawa, Pickering and Ajax are in that range.

York University is not in the sticks anymore. If you want to be accurate, it's probably closer and more accessible to the centre of the Greater Toronto Area than it has ever been before.

"I think it's very hard for those of us who live south of the 401 to understand this," said Ken Dryden, now a member of Parliament, once so involved in the design of the Air Canada Centre. "But in terms of Toronto, this is pretty close to the centre and it will only get closer to the centre as years pass on.

"I think we're all slow to understand this, but I think it's a fact and it's an interesting fact. And it might even be recognized as a fact in a few years."

Until then, it's not a fact, but it is reality. This is the outdoor stadium you've been asking, if not in the favoured locale. But a little perspective is necessary somewhere between the politicians lining up to pat themselves on the back at yesterday's announcement, the soccer people exaggerating how they intend to grow the game in the country (they've been saying that for about the past 100 years) and the Argo fans whining loudly.

A year ago, the Argos were all but dead, ownerless, taken over by the league, out of money and so far from the mainstream they could only be found in the sporting obituary columns.

Now fast forward one year. They have ownership in Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, who kept their promise of getting a stadium deal done, and have a solid operation and have gone from life-support to stable condition -- and get this -- they have the outdoor stadium that all the SkyDome haters and complainers and 'good old days' people have been demanding. An intimate place to go to watch football.

It just happens to be at Keele and Steeles. Not far from the 407 or the 401 or the 410 or the 400 or just about any highway we know. Just steps from the Ice Gardens, where every minor hockey parent in the city has made the drive on any number of occasions.

The hard part won't be getting to the campus. The challenge will be to make the convoluted roads on the York campus more accessible and user friendly than currently conceived.

They have two years to figure that out as they are building the $70-million facility. Enough time for the downtown crowd to figure out how to find its way to Steeles.


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