In the 141 year history of the Toronto Argonauts, the cloud of uncertainty has never been so prevalent. Since 1989, the Argos have played at Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome. The stadium, which is owned by Rogers Communications, owner of the Toronto Blue Jays, is slated to be fitted with natural grass in time for the 2017 baseball season. The Blue Jays have informed the Argonauts that their lease at Rogers Centre will not be renewed.
In the long run this may be a blessing for the Argonauts, but the short term leaves significant questions for the future of the Argos. At this point there is no deal in place for the Argonauts in 2017 and the team at this point will be without a home. Combine that with the owner of the Argonauts and B.C. Lions, Senator David Braley, looking to divest himself of both teams in the near future, and one has to wonder what the future holds for the Double Blue. It would be a travesty for the longest running professional sports franchise in North America to cease to exist, and 141 years of history to come to an end.
There are many who believe that the Argonauts are a lynchpin for the entire CFL. The Argos do play in the largest market in all of Canada and at the very least the question of television ratings comes into question for a league with no presence in Toronto. That being said, the Argonauts have felt significant financial issues over the years with a wide variety of owners. They have had success on the field which is evident through their 16 Grey Cups (in 1914, 1921, 1933, 1937, 1938, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1983, 1991, 1996, 1997, 2004 and 2012). Conventional wisdom lies in the idea that the success of the Argonauts is contingent on finding a new home in a smaller, more intimate stadium which has a better configuration for Canadian Football.
There has been a glimpse of hope on the Double Blue horizon. With the renovations that MLSE is investing in BMO Field, a plan is in place for the Argonauts to move into the soccer-specific stadium. As of the fall of 2014, the plan was short some money, which would be required from either the provincial government, federal government or the team or league. There were even some discussions about MLSE purchasing the Argos. MLSE and the Toronto Argonauts did get together to partner on a new training facility, which is near the facility for Toronto FC, so there is some hope that the two entities can work together.
For fans, the Argonaut experience remains an enigma with hope to the future and the Double Blue Horizon keeping the engine going, but with time ticking away, even the most die-hard of Argo fans must be wondering where the good ship Argonaut will sail next.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Rogers Centre offers Toronto Argonaut fans major league concessions. All of the expected items can be found with no problems. Hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels and nachos can be found all over the stadium.
Coca-Cola products are the soda of choice at the Rogers Centre. Pizza Nova has taken over the pizza concession in the last year and provides a pretty good product. The best choices however are the Quaker Steak and Lube for wings and fries, and the Muddy York Market for a variety for unique items which change periodically. Jerk Chicken Nachos are excellent if available.
Budweiser and Bud Light can be found throughout the stadium, but if you are looking for a variety of beer, head for the T.O. Brewhouse past the south end zone for a huge selection of craft beer and imports. Stella Artois, Lowenbrau, Rolling Rock and Sapporo are just some of the options.
The Argonauts are most assuredly guests in the Rogers Centre. There are very few permanent displays showcasing Argonaut history or accomplishments. In the south end there are banners for the four retired numbers of Argo legends Dick Shatto, Joe Krol, Danny Nykoluk, and Michael "Pinball" Clemons. There are also banners recognizing the 22 All-Time Argos as well as the 16 Grey Cup Championships the Argonauts have claimed.
Rogers Centre is cavernous and absolutely too huge for Canadian Football. With a true capacity of over 52,000, empty seats are always visible. Also, football was a bit of an afterthought in the design. The first 15 or so rows of seats near field level are tarped off because the slope is not steep enough and fans can't really see the play. The Argos also close the upper deck, bringing capacity down to 31,000, but it doesn't help to alleviate the massive emptiness fans feel.
Rogers Centre is unique. It is one of two venues in the CFL that offers the option of playing indoors. The videoboard is pretty huge, and remains the same size as the original Jumbotron of the 1989 SkyDome. The north end of the dome features the Renaissance Hotel, with many rooms looking out on to the field. The lower bowl and upper bowl do not feature cup holders, and feel smaller than standard baseball seats.
The Argonauts do their best to provide the fan with a great in game experience. The mascot, Jason, entertains the fans, while the Blue Thunder cheer team does their thing at stoppages. Frequently the Argos will have live music at halftime and the foghorn welcomes scoring plays. At times, the Argos seem to be trying to be too many things for too many people. The Argonotes are the official team band, but do not get their due, and are rarely featured. Usually there is modern music that is played over their musical interludes. There is little reference to their massive history, which is a mistake.
Downtown Toronto is a fantastic place to be, especially on a nice summer day. There are tons of eating establishments on Front Street near the Rogers Centre, or further east near the Air Canada Centre. Some of the best establishments are the Real Sports Bar and Grill, The Loose Moose, and Wayne Gretzky's.
There are also a number of things to do downtown. Rogers Centre is located just beneath the iconic CN Tower. Also at the base of the tower is the new Ripley's Aquarium. A few blocks east you will also find the Hockey Hall of Fame and just to the south is Harbourfront. Any way you slice it, there is no shortage of things to do or see in Toronto.
Unfortunately attendance for the Argonauts is falling. Routinely the Argonauts bring in the lowest attendance in the CFL. In the 2014 season, the Argonauts have drawn an average of over 17,000 fans per game, which is second to last in the league. Only the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are below the Argos, but with delays to their new stadium, the Ti-Cats played numerous games at tiny Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster.
Just a few years ago the Argos drew over 23,000 fans per game. The fans that are in attendance are true diehards. The chants of "AARRRRRGOOOOOOOS" can be heard throughout the game and on the streets before and after. However, with attendance heading in the wrong direction, a better mark for fans can't be awarded.
Getting downtown Toronto can be a bit tricky. Make sure that you research the possibility of road closures in the summer before heading down. There are numerous construction zones all summer long, and numerous events in the city that will close streets. The Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Blvd will get you to the Rogers Centre, and there is plenty of parking around the stadium.
What gives Toronto a significant bump in terms of access is the plethora of public transit. With Union Station only a few blocks from the Rogers Centre, patrons can get to the game with the TTC subway or GO Train. Streetcars also move throughout the city. Once inside the Rogers Centre, washroom facilities are more than adequate to support those in attendance.
CFL football is a great experience. Tickets for the Argonauts are what you would expect for CFL football. Tickets will run from $37 to $100. The price for concessions and parking are not too bad. The action on the field is excellent and very exciting. Fans will no doubt get significant bang for their buck and enjoy themselves.
An extra mark for the Argonotes band, and their contribution to the Argonaut atmosphere.
An extra mark is awarded for the 141 year history of the Toronto Argonauts.
With all of the uncertainty in the future for the Argonauts, there has never been a time where the team needed the fans more than they do now. It seems that many are holding back to see what the future holds. If you are able, make sure you get out to an Argonaut game and show Toronto that the Double Blue Horizon will keep the Argonauts in Toronto for another 141 years.
Follow all of Dave's sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9
The Toronto Argonauts are the oldest professional football team in the world. Founded in 1873, the Argonauts are also the third oldest professional sports franchise in North America behind only the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. They also have the distinction of being the oldest team in North America to keep their original city and name.
Needless to say Argonaut history is deep, but Argonaut history follows that of the CFL. Many believe that Toronto is the lynchpin of the CFL. If Toronto falls then so will the league. The Argos have suffered through periods of poor play and many years of shaky ownership. Although they often make a splash, the results can be less than satisfactory. Whether it was the high profile, yet ill-fated ownership of Wayne Gretzky, Bruce McNall and the late John Candy, or the scooping of Raghib "Rocket" Ismail, or the signing of a suspended Ricky Williams, the Argos know how to make a splash. Currently saved by David Braley, also owner of the B.C. Lions of the CFL, and a Canadian Senator, the biggest issue for the Argos is an appropriate stadium.
The current home of the Argos is the Rogers Centre, owned by current owner of the Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Communications. The previous ownership group worked for years to find a smaller, outdoor facility. They attempted to put together deals with the National Soccer Association, York University and the University of Toronto to build a stadium. On all accounts the efforts failed and eventually the Soccer Association got together with MLSE to build BMO Field, which is too small for CFL football. The rumblings of a new stadium have quieted down and the Argos remain at the Rogers Centre. Although not ideal, the Rogers Centre is adequate for CFL football and is great for a big event like the Grey Cup, but the long term future for the Argos at Rogers Centre remains uncertain.
The Rogers Centre closes the top level off when the Argos come to town, and the fans are louder and more into the game than their Blue Jays counterparts, helped by being closer together. Tickets are reasonably priced and even the worst seats provide good views.
The game is entertaining and doesn't suffer from the hype that dominates the NFL.
The best part is that fans are allowed on the field after the game.
A great afternoon can be had at Rogers Centre even when the Blue Jays are out of town.
In preparing for what could be one of the greatest events in Toronto sports history, the Toronto Argonauts have beefed up their lineup on the field, and continue to strive to put together a rock solid event. November of 2012 marks the 100th edition of the Grey Cup championship game. That game will be hosted in the largest city in Canada, and is being met with much anticipation and excitement. Tickets for the big game are sold out, and tickets on the after-market are going for a mind-numbing $400 per nose-bleed seat.
That being said, the Argonauts are left with the daunting task of attempting to get back to the big game, which is being played in their home stadium. An Argonaut victory in their home stadium would bring about the curious situation where owner David Braley will have won back-to-back Grey Cups in his home stadium. (Braley also owns the B.C. Lions, who won last year's Grey Cup at B.C. Place in Vancouver).
The Argos are still putting together a decent product both on the field and from a production perspective. They still struggle with a stadium that is far too large for their product, and owned by a different sporting entity (the Rogers Centre is owned by Rogers Communications, who also owns the Toronto Blue Jays). They struggle with being in a city that feels it's too good for CFL football. They struggle with not being trendy, in a very trendy town.
However, the Argos do have history on their side. They've been around since 1873, and they've taken home the big trophy 15 times. They've had a host of celebrities pass through their doors, from players like Doug Flutie, Raghib Ismail, Joe Theisman, Damon Allen, Condredge Holloway, and Ricky Williams; or owners which have included TV network TSN (Canadian equivalent to ESPN), Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky, and the late, great, John Candy. They also have the staying power of making it through some seriously tough times, and still making a go of it.
255 Bremner Boulevard
Toronto, ON M5V 3M9
146 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 1G2
310 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 3B6
301 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 2T6
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!