Just when it seemed that the chatter surrounding the expansion of BMO Field and MLSE purchasing the Toronto Argonauts had died down, news comes out that unless the Federal Government contributes the $10 million that MLSE has asked them for to help finance the expansion of the stadium the Argos will not have a home come 2018 when they are forced to leave the Rogers Centre.
That news comes from Cathal Kelly in the Globe and Mail and throws the whole plan back in to turmoil when it seemed to be so close to a done deal earlier this year. Kelly reports that MLSE has run out of patience with the Federal Government and are set to move ahead with the plan without their money. The cost of moving ahead without them is apparently the inclusion of the Argos in the deal.
According to the report, if MLSE are going to pay for more of the upgrades then they had initially intended they would save that money by renovating the stadium in such a way that it no longer includes the planned moveable ends at the North and South end of the field. The planned upgrades to allow for the dimension of a CFL Field are out the window with their $120 million price tag and have been replaced by new plans for a soccer specific stadium with a more modest price tag of $100 million. Kelly suggests that the revised plans would still get the city's approval and the $10 million loan from the City of Toronto would remain in play so that construction could go ahead just with a new plan.
If this is more than posturing from MLSE than it is very big news not just for Toronto FC fans who were hoping to avoid sharing their home with the CFL franchise. It would leave the Argos homeless following the 2017 season when their deal to play at the Rogers Centre runs out. It would also leave them searching for a new owner with the big money of MLSE off the table. Having the future of the Argos up in the air will likely also have a ripple effect across the CFL as the team remains one of their most important franchises.
Should Ottawa not bend to MLSE's demands and the renovations to BMO Field are changed to not include football it would certainly make a lot of Toronto FC fans very happy. It seemed that MLSE were selling the Argos as a necessary cost of an improved BMO Field which made some fans willing to deal with the idea but if MLSE do go ahead with a $100 million upgrade that maintains BMO Field as a soccer specific facility that would allow fans to have their cake and eat it too.
The catch is that Kelly's report suggest that even if MLSE does go ahead with their new renovation and moves forward without the Argos it does not mean that the door will be closed permanently. He indicates that the North end will remain open and use temporary seating so that BMO Field could still be adapted to host a CFL team down the road. That would require Ottawa putting the $10 million forward and bending to MLSE's demands though which will be something to keep an eye on.
So it seems that nothing is settled at this point but MLSE are certainly getting impatient and looking to move forward with the renovations one way or another. If you are one of the fans who were adamantly opposed to the Argos moving in than this report will feel like a bit of a win but as long as the door remains open there is always a chance that BMO Field will one day be home to both an MLS team and a CFL team.
If the Argos do wind up homeless it will now be Ottawa's fault for not putting forward the $10 million that MLSE asked for. Somehow it might just wind up being a win-win for MLSE who get the renovation they want and are off the hook for saving the Argos.