Of course Tom Gretes is happy. Who wouldn't be, moving from a duplex to a mansion? The York Lions head coach just saw his football quality of life rise dramatically with a recent deal to build a 25,000-seat stadium on York's campus.
"It's a huge plus," the 2002 OUA coach of the year said yesterday.
"We'll be up there with the best facilities in the country."
The Lions, who face the Western Mustangs in an OUA quarter-final today at TD Waterhouse Stadium, will be moving into their estimated $70-million stadium as early as 2006 as part of a plan structured by the Toronto Argonauts, the federal and provincial governments and York.
The Lions will be an early beneficiary. Recruiting takes on a new dimension.
"If you want to run a top program, perception is a big thing," Gretes said. "You need certain things. In the end, you have to get the players and, along with the education program, the facilities are important. For example, when Western takes a kid through the stadium there, it's pretty impressive."
York won't be playing on a flat plain any longer but in a real stadium. The presence of the CFL Argos will help burnish the football culture, too.
Argos ownership already is kindly disposed toward York. Co-owner David Cynamon, a former York player, will be at today's game.
The feds will kick in $27 million, the Argos $20 million, York $15 million plus the land, Ontario $8 million. The Argos will be on the hook for any cost overrun for a tight, no-track stadium that also will be used for top soccer events.
The pro team currently plays at the SkyDome and has sought a new playpen ever since the Montreal Alouettes made it clear a 25,000-capacity venue is ideal for CFL purposes. Not only is the SkyDome football-unfriendly, the Argos have had no control over scheduling.
After being forced to play three games in 10 days on a number of occasions this season, it's likely the Argos will aim at regular weekend dates at their new digs.
As for Gretes, who has steered the Lions into the playoffs each of his four years at the helm, he feels a meaningful look toward a Vanier Cup appearance will be realistic.
"You can go along and be competitive but to take that next step, to go to the national championship, you have to have (a superior venue)."
It's one of the reasons Quebec university teams have become so competitive. The undefeated University of Montreal Carabins attract crowds of more than 12,000, and Laval Rouge et Or even more than that.
York is not be be confused with those programs yet, not with a 3-5 record coming into today's game, even if the Lions are better than their record indicates. Among the losses were a 17-16 loss to Queen's and a 27-23 defeat by Ottawa.
"We're young and we've played better and better each week," Gretes said. "We had some early injuries and they're just coming back."
Fortunately, none was to the heart of the York attack -- running back Andre Durie, whose 1,367 yards ranks him second in the country behind McMaster's Jesse Lumsden.
"When you have a kid like that, he puts the fear of God into the other team and elevates all those around him."
Barring something completely unexpected, York is likely to take an upswing as dramatic as downtown rival University of Toronto has been slumping. You don't have to tell Mustangs' assistant coach P. J. Edgeworth how bad things used to be.
Known then as the Yeomen, they ran up a losing streak covering almost seven years, losing 47 games. Edgeworth played in 35 of them.