TORONTO - The long-fumbled dream of bringing a National Football League franchise to Toronto is alive and well and living at City Hall.
“To be a world class city, at least a North American world class city, we need an NFL team,” Councillor Doug Ford, older brother of Mayor Rob Ford, said.
“Just imagine the boost to the economy and tourism — because the NFL has to, it’s not even an option — they would have to give us the Super Bowl within the first four years,” he said. “To get a Super Bowl, it would be worldwide publicity for Toronto and the tourism would be phenomenal.”
The football-mad Ford brothers feel securing one of the pricey properties, the 32 existing franchises in the U.S. dominate the list of most lucrative North American sports teams and an expansion berth, if ever offered, would likely carry a $1 billion price tag, would be a powerful job creation plan all by itself.
Unemployment is too high across Toronto, Ford said, and it’s the new administration’s second priority after debt reduction and budget balancing.
“Right behind it, in the overall picture, is job creation,” he said. “We need to create jobs for those people and it would also send revenue up to the city on the tax base. It’s a win, win, win.”
Keeping with the bedrock Ford value of fiscal conservatism though, Ford said no public money would be involved, either with the purchase of a team or the construction of a stadium.
“What they have to do because of the environment we live in, they’ve got to dome it,” Ford said. “We’d have to make the stadium, for the Super Bowl, a minimum of 75,000 seats. The Rogers Centre is not the place to do it.
“Where are we going to put it? That’s a big question but Downsview is the most likely spot,” he said. “I think the feds would be on side in a heartbeat.”
Jacksonville and San Diego are two teams possibly on the move, although Ford said he’s so far only talking to private investors and hasn’t opened a conversation with the league itself.
National Post publisher and Ontario gaming czar Paul Godfrey has been trying since 1988, without success, to bring the NFL to town and in 2006, late cable mogul Ted Rogers said he was angling for a team as well.
But turnouts for several Buffalo Bills games played recently at the Rogers Centre have been disappointing, which Ford blamed on a lack of commitment to a visiting franchise.
“That’s not our team, it’s like our adopted child,” he said. “If you put a team in here it would boom big time.
“They (the NFL) can’t ignore a market like Toronto, they can’t ignore it,” Ford said. “Next to New York, LA, Chicago, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America.”