BMO Field - Toronto Argonauts
Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
BMO Field 170 Princes' Blvd Toronto, ON M6K 3C3 Canada
Year Opened: 2007 Capacity: 27,456
Double Blue World Order
Not only are the Toronto Argonauts the oldest team in the Canadian Football League, but, having been established in 1873, they are the oldest gridiron football team in the world. The 2022 season saw the culmination of success for the Argos with an exciting Grey Cup victory, their 18th, which is also the best in the CFL. The Argos have seen more than their share of ups and downs over the years, however, with the move to BMO Field in 2016 and solid ownership in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the future is looking a little brighter for the Argos. The Argos have been a flashy team over the years boasting football stars like Joe Theismann, Doug Flutie, Damon Allen, Raghib Ismail and Rickey Williams. The current Argos are lead by the most beloved Argonaut of them all, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, who acts as the General Manager. The Argos even boast Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and the iconic John Candy as former owners. Canadian Football remains a bit quirky for those used to the American gridiron game, but a game or two will assuredly convert football fans to the excitement and entertainment of the Canadian game. A trip to BMO Field to see the Toronto Argonauts is an excellent way to enjoy some top notch football and leave fans with the incurable urge to yell out “ARRRGOOOOS!”
Food & Beverage 5
The concession scene at BMO Field for an Argonauts game is pretty solid. The gates open for the Shipyard area past the north end zone a half hour earlier than the rest of the gates. In the Shipyard fans can enjoy some RealSports BBQ and Mill Street beverages. Throughout the rest of the stadium concession stands provide a mix of unique items and old favourites. Gourmet hot dogs and sausage are found at the mobile carts and Pizza Pizza slices can be found at numerous stands. Burgers, fries and popcorn are readily available. A whole host of unique items including braised beef grilled cheese, porchetta sandwiches, muffaletta sandwiches and Buffalo chicken fingers will tempt fans and force them to make tough decisions. The beer scene is also strong at BMO with most stands dedicated to local Mill Street products or Stella Artois and Goose Island. Coolers and other alternative, canned, alcoholic beverages are also available. Coca-Cola products are the soft drink of choice and on those cold evenings coffee, hot chocolate and other warm beverages can take a stab at warming up patrons.
BMO Field was originally built in 2007 as the home of the National Soccer program and Toronto FC. During those days, the Argonauts were sharing Rogers Centre with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2015 the Argos were told they would no longer be able to play in Rogers Centre and a move west to BMO Field seemed to be the answer to all Argo fans' woes. Since opening, BMO Field has been renovated a few times with upper decks and coverings over the grandstands being added. The capacity for Argonauts games rested at just over 27,000. The basic structure of the stadium is two large east and west grandstands, each with two decks, the Shipyard area in the north and an attempted supporters’ section in the south. The videoboard towers above the Shipyard and the banners for the Argonauts’ eighteen Grey Cup Championships (1914, 1921, 1933, 1937, 1938, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1983, 1991, 1996, 1997, 2004, 2012, 2017, 2022) blow constantly behind the south end zone. The banner honouring All-Time Argos (Joe Krol, Bill Symons, Jim Corrigal, Condredge Holloway, Paul Masotti, Jim Rountree, Dan Ferrone, Rodney Harding, Dick Shatto, Terry Greer, Ted Morris, Don Moen, Michael Clemons, Dave Mann, Jim Stillwagon, Mike O’Shea, Danny Nykoluk, Royal Copeland, Marv Luster, Bill Zock, Les Ascott, Ulysses Curtis, Ed Harrington, Doug Flutie) has been moved under the press box on the west side of the stadium. Unfortunately the banner has type that is pretty small and difficult to see from a distance. In 2023, the All-Time Argos increased their membership by two, with the induction of Damon Allen and Derrell Mitchell.
The gameday atmosphere is solid. The video presentations for the player entrances are excellent. The players enter from the northeast corner through an inflatable contraption and are lined by flags, smoke and pyro. The mascot, Jason, stands at the touchdown cannon in the northeast end, which is something the fans should be ready for, or else! The entry of the team on the field features pyrotechnics, smoke machines, flag bearers and just about everything one would need to get hyped for the game.The Argos dance team, The A-Team, which is co-ed, performs during some breaks in the action and on the sidelines. Overall a pretty solid atmosphere for a football game.
The best spot to get some pre and post game food and drink by foot is to head north of the Exhibition, under the Gardiner Expressway and Go Train and head to the Liberty Village neighbourhood of Toronto. There, fans will find a number of options – these would include Williams Landing, The Craft Brasserie & Grill, Magic Oven and Brazen Head Irish Pub. Of course if fans head east towards downtown, they will find a whole host of other options near the Rogers Centre and Scotiabank Arena, but those will probably require a vehicle of sorts to get there.
Toronto remains a top notch location for a vacation. The number of other entertainment attractions in Toronto may be too numerous to name off. A highlight on the Exhibition grounds is the annual Canadian National Exhibition. The annual fair is how thousands of Canadians ring out the summer with the annual Labour Day weekend event. Mid July brings the Honda Indy Toronto to the Exhibition and the street course runs through the Exhibition at breakneck speeds. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Medieval Times also happen on the Exhibition Grounds.
There are a ton of other sporting options in Toronto and fans may have the opportunity to put together a doubleheader in the city. BMO Field is shared with Toronto FC of the MLS. Also at Exhibition Place is the Coca-Cola Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. East of Exhibition Place is Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays of MLB. Further east along the Lakeshore is Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL and Toronto Raptors of the NBA. The University of Toronto fields a full complement of varsity teams including football at Varsity Stadium, hockey at Varsity Arena and basketball at the Goldring Centre. A true gem is Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) hockey and basketball, both of whom play in the renovated former Maple Leaf Gardens.
Most of the major hotels are found closer to downtown proper however, the Gladstone Hotel and the Drake Hotel are both close by but very luxurious and pricey. A new hotel on the Exhibition grounds, Hotel X Toronto, is also among the luxurious hotels in the city.
At one point, the Toronto Argonauts were the toast of the town. With the majority of the CFL season not crossing with the hockey season, there was really nothing stopping the Argos from ruling the city of Toronto in the summer. However, the 1977 arrival of the Toronto Blue Jays seemed to change everything and attendance began to become an issue. Over time attendance has been on a decline, not just for the Argonauts but for the CFL as a whole. With MLSE taking over the Argos, there has been renewed effort and investment in the Argos. The on field product has improved under GM Michael “Pinball” Clemons and the attendance has slowly, but surely creeped up. As of this writing, the Argos are averaging more than 14,000 fans for the 2023 season, which remains at the bottom of the CFL, but is higher than last year. The Argos finding their niche in a sport-saturated city like Toronto will take plenty of effort. A continued rise in the attendance will also bring this grade to a better spot.
BMO Field is located on the grounds of Exhibition Place. Getting to Exhibition Place can be a challenge, as anything in Toronto can be. The Ex is immediately south of the Gardiner Expressway. Although fans may think this is the quickest way to drive to the Ex, often a longer route on Lakeshore Blvd is the way to go, especially for those coming from the west.
There are a number of parking spots available for fans at Exhibition Place. It is important for fans to do some research before heading out to see the Argos. At times there are other events taking place at the Ex and parking is a real challenge. Even at the best of times, parking is not cheap and other options may be the best plan. For fans who prefer the public transit route, Exhibition Place has some decent public transit options. There is a Go Transit station right by the Ex and this is probably the easiest form of public transit. A walk north of the Ex will bring fans through Liberty Village and eventually to some TTC options. Check out the Go Transit and TTC websites for fares, maps and schedules. The ticketing window is at gate 1, at the north end of BMO Field. Lineups are not usually an issue. Security is what you would expect in this day and age of sports security, including walk through metal detectors. Before heading out, fans are encouraged to consult the Argos and BMO Field websites for up to date security bulletins and prohibited items. Consulting the Exhibition Place website is also a good idea to get an up to date event schedule for parking information.
Getting around BMO Field is not too difficult and concourses are fairly spacious. Washroom facilities are also adequate for this venue.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for the Argos are very reasonable. Tickets in the Fan Zone go for under $30, as are tickets in the upper deck at the corners. Parking now uses the “Green P” app and fans will be required to pay by phone, but the cost for parking is on the high side, with not many other options. The product on the field is vastly underrated and no doubt fans will have a great time.
An extra mark for the longevity of the Argonauts as the oldest professional football team in the world.
An extra mark for the Argonauts’ top fan, former owner and movie legend, John Candy. Candy’s tenure as owner of the Argos with Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall was a highlight of the team’s duration including the signing of Rocket Ismail, the toast of the town, and a Grey Cup victory.
An extra mark for the huge rivalry with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which culminates in the Labour Day Classic, the biggest date on the CFL calendar.
An extra mark for the return of the beloved football/ship logo, which was a mainstay in the 80s.
As the Toronto Argonauts continue to improve at the gate and provide a solid product on the field, the strength and stability of the oldest football team in the world seems just a little bit more secure. Hopefully, there will be another 150 years of Argonaut football in the future and fans in the Toronto area would be remiss if they passed on the opportunity to check out the Double Blue.