Argos run a reverse

Argos owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski were gung-ho in announcing plans for an outdoor...

Argos owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski were gung-ho in announcing plans for an outdoor stadium at York University. But the team backed out yesterday, opting to play at the Rogers Centre. (Toronto Sun File/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

Rogers, over and out.

As expected, the Argos officially backed out of the York University outdoor stadium deal yesterday, opting instead to remain as tenants in the Rogers Centre.

Argos co-owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon signed a 15-year deal with the Rogers Centre -- with team options to leave after the fifth and 10th year -- that offers significant lease savings (though it is not rent-free) from the previous annual rental fee of about $500,000 and revenue sharing for things such as concessions, parking, merchandise and boxes.

"We wanted to control our revenue streams for a new stadium, we wanted to have access to some areas of revenue that we would not have had as a tenant," Sokolowski said. "That's changed (allowing this to happen at the Rogers Centre) with this all-encompassing business deal."

The Argos were slated to chip in $20 million for the $70-million York stadium project.

Sokolowski pointed to the better scheduling offered by Rogers as a dealmaker. The Argos will have first crack at dates after the Blue Jays and have been assured they can play all home games on weekends or holidays. When the Rogers Centre (then SkyDome) was owned by Sportsco in previous years, the Argos often were forced to play games on undesirable weeknights and, because of that, basically had the worst schedule in the Canadian Football League.

"We are in control of our schedule, which we've never had here and I don't think the Argos ever had in this stadium," Cynamon said. "We are going to have weekend games, we won't have Tuesday, Wednesdays or Thursdays and we won't be on the road for three to four weeks again."

Interestingly, the Argos seem to be backtracking from previous comments about the fan experience at the Rogers Centre, which is too big to fill for most Argos games and features poor sightlines in the non-steep 100-level.

"Scoreboards and stuff are very nice, but the fan experience is still not to the level we want it," Argos co-owner David Cynamon told The Toronto Sun on Feb. 3 after Rogers announced changes to the scoreboard and turf.

Yesterday, the Argos were singing a bit of a different tune.

"They are going to add certain enhancements," Cynamon said. "I don't think there's anything with the sightlines that can change. We've never implied it's a horrible place, there's no doubt it can be a better situation. But it is a pretty good stadium and with enhancements and what we can do with game day, I think we can make it a better fan experience."

The Argos called it a win-win deal and Sokolowski and Cynamon said they have no plans to sell the team.

"I think one good thing is we know the importance of running a sports team and problems sports team face in scheduling," Paul Godfrey, the president/CEO of the Rogers-owned Blue Jays, said. "We'll have a sympathetic ear."

Cynamon said 10 season-ticket holders have called to complain about the decision. He said the Argos plan to offer refunds to disappointed fans.

"Our intent was to do the best thing for the Argos. That's what Howard and I are here for," Cynamon said. "This is not a financial windfall ... We're in this to have the Argos survive."


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