Argos eyeing BMO Field?

Argos ownership is toying with the idea of playing home games at BMO Field in the near future. (Sun...

Argos ownership is toying with the idea of playing home games at BMO Field in the near future. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

Toronto Argonauts owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski have met with city officials regarding a move of the team to BMO Field from the Rogers Centre, but not for the 2010 season.

Meetings have taken place in the past several weeks as the pair, who reportedly have decided to not sell the Canadian Football League franchise, try to figure out how or if a move to BMO Field eventually could happen.

“There have been preliminary discussions, but they have been serious as well,” said Joe Pantalone, the deputy mayor of Toronto and chair of the board of governors of Exhibition Place.

“We’re prepared to get married, but we need a proper proposal. Absolutely (an Argos move to BMO Field), would be good for Exhibition Place, the city, and the CFL.”

Argos president Bob Nicholson said the club will play at the Rogers Centre in 2010.

"We don't have a lot of time left (on the Rogers Centre lease), but as far as I'm concerned, we will be playing there next year," Nicholson said. "Season ticket renewals went out based on (playing at the Rogers Centre)."

Of the discussions about moving to BMO, Nicholson said: "I would say we're always looking at our options. Howard and David continue to explore them going forward."

Nicholson could not confirm that Cynamon and Sokolowski have decided to not sell the team.

CFL commissioner Mark Cohon, during his annual state of the league address this morning in Calgary, said he wants to have a resolution on Cynamon and Sokolowski's plans "in the coming weeks."

There would be a small problem with a potential move to BMO Field — it's too short by CFL regulations, but the Argos hope the league could overlook that. It’s thought the field would be as short by as many as four yards in each end zone, but it could be more. CFL end zones are 20 yards in length. A regulation CFL field is 110 yards long.

The alternative would be to demolish some stands at BMO, a venture that would cost millions of dollars and is not favoured by either the club or Exhibition Place.

“Once you overcome (the field length), if the Argos were interested in moving, there is no doubt it could happen,” Pantalone said. “It’s really in the Argos’ and the CFL’s corner now.”

If Cynamon and Sokolowski maintain ownership of the Argos — the lone suitor is thought to be David Braley, who also owns the B.C. Lions — it’s not known what the future holds for general manager Adam Rita and head coach Bart Andrus. In the past two seasons combined, the Argos were 7-29 under three coaches — Rich Stubler, Don Matthews and Andrus. The latter was 3-15 in his first year this past season.

"We wouldn't make anything public until post-Grey Cup, and I'm not suggesting there will be anything to announce," Nicholson said. "The fans have hung with us. We owe it to them to build a franchise we can be proud of, and we have a lot of work to do."

A move to BMO by the Argos would emulate what the Montreal Alouettes have done. Rather than play regular season games in the spacious Olympic Stadium, the Als play at Molson Stadium at McGill University, a much cozier venue which always is packed with just over 20,000 fans for games. BMO Field has just over 20,000 seats.

At the Rogers Centre, the atmosphere is not good for football. Despite being the cellar dwellers in the CFL, the Argos still have managed to maintain fairly good numbers at the box office. Average attendance for nine home games in 2009 was 26,374.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca


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