After a few false starts, a change of partners and rumours of venue changes the Toronto Argonauts finally can look forward to a new home for the 2006 football season. The University of Toronto announced Friday that they plan on building a 25,000 seat stadium on the site of the former Varsity stadium. The combination football/soccer stadium will be shared by the Argos and the Canadian Soccer Association. The soccer folks will use the stadium for international games which until now basically went to Edmonton by default; the new stadium gives the national team another venue in Canada to attract better opposition which should help to make them a better team over the long haul.
The new Varsity will cost 80 million to construct, with the University providing 30 million, private donors 15 million and the various levels of government the remaining 35 million. The revised financing program was put together after Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment pulled out of the project earlier this year.
For the Argos it’s the culmination of a long held desire to return to a smaller more user and fan friendly location. The Argos will provide the annual debt servicing of 2 .1 million dollars, on the U of T’s loan of 30 million. For their contribution the Argos get to use the stadium for home games and operate it for other activities.
The Argos who last year were on life support, have had a remarkable change of attitude since they were sold. The stadium issue just another piece of the puzzle solved for what the league considers its key franchise.
As with any government dependant program this one comes with strings attached, so perhaps they should put the champagne on ice at the Argo offices for a bit yet. The governmental share of 35 million is conditional; the federal money will only be produced should the CSA win the rights to the Under 20 world championships. If the soccer folks don’t come through then the funding is gone.
The Argos aren’t major financial partners in the project, so they can only look on and hope for the best. No doubt benefitting from the spreading of money prior to a federal election, the Argos are finding that they are at the right place at the right time. They can now only sit back and hope that the soccer lobbyists are up to the job on the world stage. They also won’t want to pick up any double blue paint for the dressing rooms until there are a few shovels in the ground, with this project you’re never really sure if it’s going to happen. A hole in the ground might give everyone a bit more security.
The above posting also appears in my TwelveMenontheField blog, for more items and links about Canadian football check it out.