The question has been posed: Could the Hamilton Ticats and Toronto Argos, arch-enemies through the eons and brothers in blood-red ink, find financial salvation by taking up residence in the same suburban stadium?
Bob Young, the Ticats owner, offered a take.
“It’s hard to see, just on the face of it, how it works. But my reaction is all ideas are worth investigating,” Young was saying Thursday. “It is sufficiently hare-brained to be worth looking at.”
“Hare-brained,” by the way, was this typist’s description of a Ticats-Argos co-habitation, and certainly the plan has its not-so-ideal aspects. But if you glimpse the picture currently being sketched for the venues of the 2015 Pan Am Games, you’ll know “hare-brained” lines up impressively next to “ill-conceived” and “so intensely illogical it could only happen on a garbage dump on a non-existent LRT line on a campus of the University of Toronto.” So, “hare-brained”? I like its chances!
The business case is a no brainer. Both teams need new revenue-generating homes. There’s federal and provincial cash committed to build a stadium somewhere in the Golden Horseshoe for use in the 2015 Pan Am Games, multi-millions that won’t come around again anytime soon. Civic leaders in ham-handed Hamilton are currently fumbling the ball while a highly-paid facilitator, Michael Fenn, searches for alternatives to a proposal, panned by the Ticats, to build the stadium on a low-visibility, parking-challenged site best accessed by charter chopper on the former steel city’s west harbour.
And dual tenancy has worked well enough for the NFL’s New York Giants and Jets that they’re getting ready to move into their second co-habitation in the New Jersey swamplands. Not that every owner doesn’t dream of sole domain.
“I covet BMO Field,” said Young of the home of Toronto FC, when asked if there was a model for his field of dreams. “BMO was built largely with public funds but it was built in such a way that it’s a single-use stadium. It seems very wrong. A poor use of public funds. . . . But it’s a relatively well-done project and it was done relatively quickly in the right location. In that sense, I admire BMO.”
In addition to taking a shot at the big smoke’s pension-plan profiteers, Young, who says he has lost millions since buying the Ticats in 2003, spent a few minutes pontificating about a theoretical day when his team and the Argos play in a stadium at, say, Oakville’s Bronte Park. There’s a GO station nearby. There’s plenty of tailgating real estate not far from the QEW and 403 and 407. It sounds like football-fan paradise, not that there aren’t downsides.
“The distances are far enough that the risk you’re running is you don’t actually serve either audience properly,” Young said. “The Argo fans don’t go because it’s too far from Toronto. The Hamilton fans don’t go because it’s too far from Hamilton.”
Young, to counter that, has also talked about the necessity of turning the Ticats into a regional concern, drawing fans from Welland to Waterloo. So whether they actually play in Hamilton, or on its outskirts, or 20 minutes down the road, what, really, is the difference?
In any event, you’ll notice Young didn’t say, “On a cold day in hell.” That’s because, thanks in part to the peerless work of my colleague Dave Perkins and other conscientious truth tellers, there are powerful types suddenly recognizing the embarrassment looming if a poorly-conceived Pan Am bid book is followed to its letter. (An example: The current plan calls for U of T’s perfectly good internationally-certified Bloor Street track stadium to sit idle while the Pan Am folks build another track venue that would require a multi-millon-dollar conversion to CFL standards. Far better, as many have pointed out, to hold track at Varsity, then build the new stadium for Pan Am soccer with CFL-ready dimensions).
Let’s not even discuss the U of T swimming pool built on the backs of students on the garbage dump on the due-in-2030 Scarborough light-rail line. Note to Pan Am CEO Ian Troop and chair Roger Garland: You gents have certainly inherited this flawed script, but you’ll wear the bomb if you don’t get it to re-write, and quickly.
Surely Young knows, with the entire schmozzle due for revision, he can’t be too choosy. As much as the Ticats and Argos are rivals, Young has an ally in David Braley, the owner of the Argos and the B.C. Lions who on Thursday was appointed an Ottawa senator. Braley has refused to comment because he’s on the Pan Am board, but one assumes he has sufficient connections to make “hare-brained” happen. Whatever happens, here’s hoping for a higher-minded end to the dimness.[The Star News]