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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Touch-downer! Argos sale to MLSE to mark the end of BMO Field as soccer specific stadium

Why is this man smiling?

That thud you heard this morning was TFC supporter's hearts collectively hitting the ground. A TSN report claiming that the Toronto Argos are on the brink of being sold to MLSE and/or Larry Tanenbaum brought home the worst fears for many of The Reds' faithful. The Argos are moving to BMO Field.

When (not if) this long-rumoured deal comes to fruition, there will be no more "will they or won't they move here" - it will be a done deal. The little, imperfect yet genuine soccer stadium we have taken more-or-less for granted will be gone. In its place will be a new, multi-purpose facility. "This Is Our House" will be nothing but words on an outdated poster.

Don't be fooled TFC supporters - in the very near future you will be tempted with dazzling architectural diagrams of BMO 2.0 with a roof, retractable seats and the kicker... a pristine soccer pitch. Do us a favour and take a piece of chalk and draw in fully faded CFL markings over this pitch to see the eventual reality.

Fear-mongering and over-reacting you say? Well show us one single gridiron/football (real football) groundshare that works on actual grass (or hybrid for argument's sake) where the football team plays on a smooth, gridiron-line free surface. We're not talking a Wembley Stadium that hosts one or two NFL matches but a full season of linebacker pounding.

Some hopeful types trot out the fact that some UK football grounds share with a rugby tenant. A fair argument but leaning towards apples and oranges. I have yet to see a rugby match with lines every ten yards, a Toronto Sun logo in the centre circle, coloured end zones and Rona ads in every quadrant. Rugby also has more horizontal movement as opposed to gridiron's "up the middle" motion. Also, there is a far deeper purist sentiment in the UK that would not put up with a marked/destroyed pitch. That level of concern from MLSE would be surprising.

This issue has been a thorn in TFC fans' sides for seven long years and their fears are genuine - not irrational. Looking at the concerns and how MLSE will attempt to appease fears will be the dominant controversy of this season and likely many going forward.

THE PITCH: Tim Leiweke has been downright adamant that grass will stay at BMO Field and that apparently some amazing new peel-off paint science is available. Uh-huh. Show us where Tim or are we to believe that MLSE has a team of scientists working on a completely unknown technology? Amazing! Hot air too. As for the pitch, we give it half-a-season of Argo-sharing before the choice to move to at least a plastic hybrid is no longer a choice but a necessity.

THE INTIMACY: Another area where #LeiwekeLeaks has made bold promises. The "soccer experience" will only be enhanced... apparently. As citizens of the South Stand since 2007, we know that maintaining our current distance to the pitch while housing a CFL end zone would have to include retractable seats. This would mean a complete tear out of the current South Stand and concourse, a major excavation and re-build and the likely diversion of Princes' Blvd. We are talking a construction of that section alone that may rival BMO Field's original cost. In other words, the first likely candidate in cost-overrun chopping.

A ROOF: Hard to argue. Any TFC supporter who has suffered through extreme cold then extreme heat then extreme cold again over the course of a season wants one. Too bad we weren't important enough to get one without the Argos. This is what you will be sold on - if being dry and watching footy on gridiron lines is your thing - you'll be pleased.

With all this being said, we are not organizing a bonfire night for your season tickets yet. Everyone has to ask themselves what they are willing to put up with. If they day comes where you show up for an August TFC fixture and you can't quite tell where the penalty box is due to CFL paint then it is entirely up to you if you want to stay. We will not be there - we tend to believe quite a few of you won't be back either.

We desperately want to be wrong about these worst-case scenarios but fear we are not. Suddenly the big signings that breathed life into this corpse of a football club seem a dark, cynical ploy to appease us, get us to renew our season tickets and then drop a bomb on us.

Prove us wrong Tim Leiweke and MLSE. There is no "oops it didn't really work" once you have shoehorned in the Argos into "Our House" - just an MLS franchise akin to an expensive NY/NJ MetroStars that many notoriously "top level or nothing" Toronto fans will turn up their noses at.

1 comment:

  1. I have *no interest* in a roof on BMO field. Being outside on those sunny summer days is why I bought seasons in the first place. The rainy days makes the experience feel a little more genuine.