When the University of Toronto dropped the ball on plans to build a soccer/football stadium at Varsity, York University pounced on it like a loose fumble.
"Everybody said go," York University president Dr. Lorna Marsden said yesterday when it was announced the school would become the future home of the $70-million complex.
"The board of governors had a call last week and really it was just 100%," Marsden added. "They had tough questions, as they should, but they're all on side. Just great."
Ground breaking is scheduled in March for the stadium, which will be situated on the north side of the main campus facing Steeles St., just west of Keele.
The stadium, which will have 25,000 permanent seats but can be retrofitted to add 15,000 for temporary events, will take between a year and two years to build. It has to be ready for 2007 when the Canadian Soccer Association plays host to the world youth championship.
CSA chief operating officer Kevan Pipe said the fact it took only 11 business days to put the deal together is "unbelievable" given the complexities involved.
"The support we've had from our business partners -- from the federal government, from the provincial government and from the Argos -- was unshakeable," Pipe said. "That gave us comfort going forward ... but to have the institution like York step up and make the type of commitment they've done in such a short period of time is heartwarming."
Argo owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski, both of whom attended York, praised the university, which was bypassed initially for the project in favour of the University of Toronto's Varsity site.
"There's a fond spot in our hearts for the school, but ultimately the decision to where the stadium goes is not based on emotion, it's based on intelligence," Sokolowski said. "Our feeling is very strong this will be the best place to put a football/soccer stadium in the GTA.
"This was neck and neck with Varsity," Cynamon added. "We can't retrace our footsteps and figure out why we chose one or the other. All we know is when Howard and I woke up (yesterday) we had a great feeling in our stomach and our hearts that this was the right decision. We understand the area. We understand the growth. This is the fastest-growing area in Canada, so we're looking at it from a business perspective also and this is the future.
"When we finally do get the subway system here, this will be the absolute, ultimate site."
Mayor David Miller expressed concerns about the transportation issue.
"The traffic issue in the vicinity of York when there's a big crowd is particularly problematic because most people are coming by car," Miller told the Fan 590. "At big events you need a lot of people to choose transit. That's the only way it will work. Now, there is some hope. We're trying to build a reserve busway to York and, hopefully, this will accelerate it. And if our good friends in Ottawa and Queen's Park give us a cheque for $1.4 billion, we'd be happy to build a subway to York University."
"If you drive north on the 400 to the 401, it takes three minutes to get to the Steeles exit," Cynamon said. "This is not the sticks anymore. York University is central and I think people need to understand that."
The Deal ...
A breakdown on the cost of the new stadium at York University:
- Estimated cost: $70 million*
- Federal government: $27 million
- Argo ownership: $20 million
- York University: $15 million (plus land)
- Ontario government: $8 million
* -- any cost overrun on stadium will be the Argos responsibility