Flip could flop

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

Standing on a supposed field of dreams at York University, David Cynamon talked about all the possibilities for his Argonauts.

His eyes lit up months ago as he spoke about the ambiance of an outdoor stadium.

He smiled as he talked about a new football experience. He went on about kids and picnics and tents and carnivals and barbecues and how the new stadium would ensure "economic viability" for the Argos.

Yesterday, standing uncomfortably on the shiny new artificial turf at Rogers Centre, a stadium he has berated often, he barely made eye contact. He did say the deal that will keep the Argos playing in an oversized theatre for the next 15 years will "ensure the economic viability" of his football club.

That seems to be the buzz phrase, no matter what the story may be. The new and growing old Argos ownership of Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski officially is 1-for-3 in stadium announcements.

Those numbers may play well for baseball hitters at the Rogers Centre, but not when it comes to finding a shrinking credibility with their football club. Cynamon and Sokolowski bought all kinds of goodwill when they rescued the Argos from another near-death experience, when they promised an outdoor stadium, and when their first season ended with a fascinating Grey Cup championship.

What could be better than that?

But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to season two. The apparent stadium deal at the University of Toronto was sabotaged by ratepayers in the Annex area and by administration members with other agendas. "They got shafted by the U of T," a source said yesterday. "That deal should have got done."

Then came the York University site, less popular but seemingly more viable. They brought in soccer kids and politicians and football players and cheerleaders all to sell what never will be. When the first cash call came in from York U, the Argos owners pulled their own Gustavo Chacin and balked at any further involvement.

Enter Paul Godfrey, who makes a habit of finding homes for Toronto's sporting franchises. It was Godfrey who brokered the original deal that led to the partnership that built the Air Canada Centre. And it was Godfrey who approached the Argos with a sweetheart deal -- and no, it's not free rent, but close -- to get the team to stay at what used to be the SkyDome.

LOUSY FOR FOOTBALL

The stadium, for the record, is the same lousy stadium for football it was a year ago and a year before that. The turf is better and the video screens are brighter but the 100-level seating is viable only if you're eight-feet tall. The atmosphere is not football. The feel never has been football.

How this leaky Argos ship -- and you can include president Keith Pelley -- now can convince the public that the stadium it tried to run from suddenly is the place to be is open to speculation.

Even Cynamon slipped once yesterday by saying: "We grew our fan base last year, in spite of the stadium."

The same stadium, with a few cosmetic changes, that now is their home. Their future. Maybe their football funeral.

"Our first priority is to our fans," Sokolowski said. He said the same thing when he bought the team, said the same thing when he tried to build stadiums at York and U of T.

"It's not like we're in this for the financial windfall," Cynamon said. "We're in this to have the Argos survive."

On that note, they can't be criticized. As to their broken campaign promise of an outdoor stadium, well, as boxing promoter Bob Arum once said: "Yesterday, I was lying. Today, I'm telling the truth."


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