Commish backs Argos

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Went to a fashion show yesterday and a state of the Canadian Football League address broke out.

The CFL and Reebok dressed stars from across the league in the new uniforms that fans will be seeing from Montreal to Vancouver this year, incorporating a few new design wrinkles and high-tech, breathable athletic fabrics.

The results were mostly impressive, but you have to understand that the "models" chosen were all trim, flat-bellied backs, receivers and the like. No dumpy 330-pound linemen were used to show off the new duds, but then, why would you?

In the audience, CFL commissioner Tom Wright applauded the "new expression of our game" that the redesigned CFL gear represents.

He also weighed in on a variety of timely topics near and dear to the hearts of CFL fans.

As far as the Argos' decision to stay at the Rogers Centre, rather than head north to uncharted territory at York University, Wright was enthusiastically supportive.

"I'm thrilled for the Argos," he said. "They have this long-term commitment now and a real understanding of where and how they're going to build their business.

"I know it was a difficult decision for them, but there were a lot of elements that went into the original decision to move to York and many of those elements were addressed in this new relationship with Rogers, in terms of the economics, in terms of scheduling.

"One of the most difficult parts of the previous relationship was that the Argos were second-class citizens when it came to scheduling. They are no longer second-class citizens and are integrally involved in making sure that the schedule fits their fans' needs."

Wright has inspected the changes that have been made at the Rogers Centre and says they are reflective of a new direction that he expects will return the building formerly known as the SkyDome to a position of prominence and a place that will again be a magnet to sports fans.

"The kinds of changes and improvements that have been made already to Rogers Centre are, to me, a sign that there's going to be a lot of investment in the facility where the Argos play.

"Rogers Centre now has an owner that has vision and a desire to return the facility to its leading position.

"Ultimately, it's the fan experience that matters ... what happens when you're walking up to the facility and how you're treated before the game, during the game, how accessible are the concessions, how good is the food. I believe the new owners at Rogers Centre have that understanding and that commitment.

"During the twilight of the SkyDome era, there wasn't that sense of commitment and long-term investment that would ensure the fan experience for baseball, for football, for anything else, was maximized."

FUTURE IS BRIGHT

Wright was a little more guarded about the shaky Ottawa ownership situation that has drawn the Gliebermans out of the woodwork, hoping to take an ownership position with the Renegades. In their previous CFL incarnation, the Michigan-based Gliebermans were something less than stellar owners, essentially running the Rough Riders franchise into the ground.

"Right now," Wright said, "my concern is to ensure that the 2000 commitment to put football in the nation's capital continues. I'm working very actively with the current ownership group to find the right solution so we can ensure that football is not only alive in the nation's capital but that it thrives.

"When we're in a better position to understand how that ownership structure might show itself, then that's when I'll be happy to answer those questions.

Wright also suggested that the Reebok people may have a new uniform to help design if plans for a Halifax franchise come together.

"Probably not next year," Wright said, "but I'd love to give Reebok's designers that challenge before the turn of this decade and -- who knows -- it might just happen."


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