Argos ticket sales take a hit

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 PM ET

Off the field, the Argonauts have taken a shot across the bow thanks to a couple of horrible seasons.

A total of seven victories in 2008 and 2009 means the Argos already are struggling in 2010, with not so much as a down being played.

“It’s not easy to sell tickets in this marketplace,” Argos president Bob Nicholson said on Wednesday during a conference call. “A lot of fans are playing wait-and-see.”

Nicholson said season ticket sales are down about 10%, and corporate sponsorship is down 8-9%. The focus, Nicholson said, is on group sales and flex packs, where fans can buy tickets in three- and six-game blocks. The hope is that once fans are drawn in either via groups or the special packs, they will like what they see enough to become season-ticket holders.

It didn’t help the ticket sales department that the Argos underwent a larger overhaul during the winter than any other Canadian Football League team, changing the owner and head coach and starting from scratch at quarterback. The Argos will begin the 2010 regular season with games in Calgary and Winnipeg, and losing both could be disastrous.

Attendance in 2009 dipped to an average of 26,374 from 29,189 the previous year, and it could drop further if the Argos don’t improve on the field. As Nicholson noted, the best marketing plan is a solid football team. But if you have been out and about and noticed more Argos advertising, it’s not a coincidence.

New lease

Part of the philosophy is to be more visible in a city that has dozens of options for the entertainment dollar.

David Braley, who took over ownership from Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon in February, stressed then that there would be no search for another stadium. To that end, the Argos are on the verge of signing a three-year lease with the Rogers Centre that will keep them there through 2012. When asked whether the club would have any interest in a shared stadium with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Nicholson said the option is something that “isn’t on our radar screen.”

Without naming names, Nicholson took a little swipe at Cynamon and Sokolowski, who investigated the idea of moving to what would have been a cramped playing surface at BMO Field before giving up the ownership ghost three months ago.

“David Braley exudes passion and has a long-term view,” Nicholson said. “In the past, too many owners thought it could be done with a quick fix and that has never been the case.

“We have to rebuild with the new owner in place. The long-range look is that when you’re in the entertainment business, it’s all about having an entertaining product. We have to develop and maintain a core of players to build around.”

On the subject of former Dr. Anthony Galea, who had been the Argos’ team doctor until resigning this year, Nicholson would not comment. Galea has been charged with several drug-related offences and last week a criminal complaint filed in U.S. court stated that Galea often travelled to the U.S. to illegally administer drugs to professional athletes.


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