The fight for the future of BMO Field begins
[A]re you a soccer loving resident of the City of Toronto? If so, write your city councillor, email or twitter Mayor Miller…tell them you don’t want the Argos moving into Canada’s National Soccer Stadium (aka BMO Field). this is a serious threat. Get mobilized.
That’s the current facebook status of Dino Rossi, one of this country’s soccer superheroes (who you may recognize as VPjr from the various message boards). Yes, on the same day that they started ripping the much-loathed turf out of BMO Field, the rumblings emerged yet against about the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts wanting to move into the stadium — but this time, apparently the owners have opened up discussions with City Hall, making their potential incursion, in Dino’s words, “a serious threat”.
And although the owners of Toronto FC, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, would surely hate the CFLers infringing of their turf (well, grass), as the operators (not owners) of the stadium, they’ve had to admit they have no ultimately say in the matter — it’s the City of Toronto’s call. Toronto FC fans have, expectedly, made their very strong disapproval of the stadium-sharing idea quite clear (exhibits A, B, C and D, for starters), but will that be enough? Will it come down to which team’s fans can make the most noise?
Because if so, methinks the future of the National Soccer Stadium as a soccer-specific stadium is probably safe. But if not, we could be in for a serious fight here.
To stake my own position, let me say that I’m a CFL fan. An Argos fan, to boot. I had season tickets for five years until I had to give them up this season, for reasons irrelevant to this post. I gladly plunked down several hundred bucks to watch the ‘Riders and the Bombers battle for the Grey Cup in Toronto a few years ago, and happily participated in all the game-related hoopla. I’m genuinely peeved that, due to other commitments, I’ll be unable to catch the Grey Cup tomorrow. I’ve met David Cynamon, one of the team’s owners (albeit briefly) and he seems like a nice, reasonable fellow.
Hell, I was even out there last year as part of that wacky group of pro-CFL protesters waving signs, placards and Canadian flags outside the Rogers Centre when the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town for the first game in the “Bills in Toronto” series.
The point is, I genuinely believe the CFL is one of this country’s true national institutions, a vital part of our heritage, and cannot explain to you how angry I get when I hear anyone — be they soccer fans, NFL fans or whoever — openly longing for the CFL or the Argonauts to just disappear completely, as if their mere existence is an annoyance. (I’ve even caught myself considering people making such comments to be stupid assholes, if we’re being forthright here.) So it really eats me up inside to read some of the comments on the above-linked message board threads, where anti-CFL vitriol is being spewed by some fellow soccer fans, who I consider to be my people. It’s fortunate that I’m very well-versed in cognitive dissonance.
All of this being said, and with the firm belief that a strong, thriving Argonauts franchise is key to the CFL (and, subsequently, the nation) as a whole, I agree with Dino. We must fight to keep BMO Field as a soccer-specific stadium. The Argos showed, a few years ago, that with a good economy, the right marketing and on-field success, that they can be the talk of the town. Sure, attendance and interest levels are down as of late, but that’s not solely a reflection of the Rogers Centre as a venue — it’s also ’cause the economy (and the team) are complete garbage. It’s cyclical. The economy will rebound. The team will get better. The seats at the Rogers Centre will have asses in them again. Sure, the move to a cozier stadium worked wonders for the Montreal Alouettes — but the Argos don’t need BMO Field. Toronto FC does.
The Argos had their chance, remember. Twice they walked away from deals with the Canadian Soccer Association that would have seen a shared football/football stadium built at either Varsity Stadium (can you imagine how sweet that would have been?) or at York University. And now they’re so desperate to get into BMO Field that they’re lobbying the CFL to shrink the size of the endzones — just for them — so that a CFL field could fit? The Argos are coming across as the girl who toyed with your emotions for a long time, never following through until she saw that you got a smarter, more attractive girlfriend and suddenly she wanted in.
Sorry toots. You had your chance. You blew it. And as much as I love and respect the CFL and what it means to Canada, the future of football in this city is the round kind, not the pointy kind.