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Toronto to get new downtown stadium

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Great news! Toronto will be getting a new soccer/football stadium to be completed by 2006! It will be a new home for the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts who were having trouble attracting fans in the cavernous SkyDome. It will also be home to many other athletic activities, especially amateur athletics. It is on the old site of Varsity Stadium, which was demolished in 2002 I believe. The only catch is, Toronto has to win the bid for the FIFA under 19 championchips or something like that. Since we're the only contender, it's looking good! Anyways, read the article for more accurate information.


It's a wonderful day for Argos, owner says

Team set to return to U of T stadium

Soccer association faces `a big onus'



The Argonauts are sailing home to Varsity Stadium.

And their latest owners are hoping to sail out of the sea of red ink that has scuttled previous franchise holders.

"We've got an opportunity now to make the Argos a viable product, something that has never been an opportunity for any other owner over the last 25 to 30 years," David Cynamon said yesterday. He and Howard Sokolowski purchased the team last October.

The Argos will be the major tenants of a new $80 million Varsity Stadium, a 25,000-seat facility with two levels of retail outlets fronting on Bloor St. W. which will rise on the site of the old stadium razed in 2002.

The original plan, which involved Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, called for the restoration of adjoining Varsity Arena and the building of a second ice surface that would have become the practice facility for the Maple Leafs. However, MLSE pulled out of the project in mid-March, claiming it was not financially viable.

The Canadian Soccer Association will also be a major user of the facility. In fact, the CSA's bid for the 2007 under-20 men's world championship was a major factor in the federal and provincial governments pledging a total of $35 million toward the cost. How the two levels of government will divide the pledge is still to be worked out.

"There's a big onus on Kevan Pipe (CSA chief operating officer)," said federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Joe Volpe. "All the money will be there if he's successful in bringing the tournament here."

Added Volpe, "I can't see the CSA not having a successful bid. If we weren't confident of that we wouldn't be here."

Cynamon was also confident the project would go ahead.

"We'll be standing right here for the opening game of 2006," he said as he stood on the patchy sod of the current playing field.

The Argos will pay an annual rental fee of $2.1 million which will go toward servicing the $30 million mortgage the University of Toronto will take on as its share of the building costs. The university also plans to provide $15 million through private donations.

The Argos expect to cover their costs as managers of the facility. They will receive all revenue coming into the stadium including naming rights, gate receipts from all events, concessions, and sale or rental of approximately 32 private suites. They controlled none of those rights at SkyDome.

"It's a wonderful day for the Argonauts," Sokolowski said. "They played here for 50 years. The fact that we're coming back and joining up with the U of T and the Canadian Soccer Association is a wonderful accomplishment.

"The fact also that we can be part of building a small, intimate facility with very fan-friendly sightlines is wonderful. When David and I bought the Argos that was our goal. We felt that for the long-term care of the team we needed a new venue.

"I think SkyDome is a good venue, but Varsity will become a great one."

Moving to a smaller, intimate stadium proved to be a boon for the Montreal Alouettes, who left cavernous Olympic Stadium for 20,000-seat Molson Stadium on the McGill University campus, where the Als have enjoyed 46 consecutive sellouts.

However, since it is generally accepted that a CFL team needs an average of 22,000 fans per game to break even, the Als will add 5,000 seats before next season.

Argo president and CEO Keith Pelley said the club is expecting higher attendance at the SkyDome this season than the roughly 15,000 it averaged last season. He suggested attendance could even double.

Pelley said it's better to play before a full house rather than have many unsold seats.

"It's supply and demand," he said. "The best thing is to be sold out. To have a sellout you need 75 per cent of capacity in season tickets. That means for a 25,000-seat stadium you need to sell 18,000 season tickets. I think that's realistic. It would be hard to sell 35,000 season tickets (at 50,000-seat Skydome)."

While the Argos and CSA were elated over the success in gaining the critical government support, no one was happier than U of T vice-president of development Jon Dellandrea, who has been the pointman in the process.

"This is a fabulous day for the university," said the former Varsity Blues linebacker. "This is going to significantly enhance the inter-collegiate and recreational programs. The previous field was only useable for about three hours a day. This surface will allow use from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. So it's going to expand the use by our students and the programs."

Dellandrea also feels the new stadium will help revive the fortunes of the school's CIS football team, the Varsity Blues, who have fallen on hard times both on and off the field over the past several years.

Argo head coach Mike Clemons called yesterday's announcement "the fulfillment of what I had hoped for and dreamed of for the last several years.

"This puts us in a position where we can be competitive every year," he said.

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Well I can see the point in moving to a smaller stadium to prevent that empty stadium feel for the Argos, but at the same time you run a risk of filling up that 25K capacity and having a potential for more people attending during a game. Still that should be enough for a CFL team, and certainly the effect of being in a stadium where you don't feel like playing second fiddle to a larger professional team is helpful.

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I think I read in the paper that a CFL team needs to attract 22,000 fans to break even, since a lot of the revenue is based on ticket revenue. This is why the Alouettes, who have sold out 40-something straight times, are still not making a profit. (McGill only seats 20 000, about to be upgraded to over 25 000 i think). So the idea is, people like open air stadiums, and this new stadium will make the Argos the hot ticket in town, and they will start to make money... and then when it starts to sell out, they can go into SkyDome for the big games... like eastern conference finals etc... like in Montreal last year when they had 60 000 in the Big O to watch the eastern conference final.

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