FYI, I went with the click-baity headline instead of the far more appropriate, Here’s some fucking possible bullshit set to derail the Jays’ quest for a grass field, because why should we be allowed to have nice things or bask in some good times for once in two damn decades?
Anywho, as you’ve probably heard by now, Cathal Kelly has published an interesting little piece today for the Globe and Mail, detailing how the supposed foregone conclusion that is the Argos’ move to a new-look BMO Field has hit a snag, and isn’t just on the verge of being called off, but that MLSE “has cancelled plans to include the Toronto Argonauts in their renovation.”
That’s a statement that obviously has ominous undertones for Blue Jays fans who just want to watch their team play on a grass field like everybody damn else — though, if they keep playing the way they’re playing, who could complain? — but it soon becomes evident in Kelly’s piece that the manoeuvrings being discussed are part of a much larger game of chess being played by several of the city’s levels of government and big-money sporting interests, and that cancelled plans could soon be un-cancelled, or reworked, or… we don’t exactly know yet.
That would seem to be the big takeaway from a Jays perspective, too: we just don’t know yet. Or, to give it the more pessimistic slant: we’ve been thrown back into limbo on the Argos issue, after we’d been so sure we’d been handed a clean break, given the fancy-suited set’s plans to dangle the Argos in front of governments in order to secure a handout that would pay for MLSE’s hoped-for renovation of BMO. (Because how else could MLS-and-fuckin’-E pay for something like that. O how???)
I don’t think that was ever really the final hurdle between the Jays and a grass pitch, but here it is again, being propped up in front of us all the same. For now.
A summary of Kelly’s explanation of what’s gone on:
MLSE planned to include the Argos in their renovation of BMO, hoping to secure a $10-million loan from the city and $10-million in grants from the provincial and federal governments. The feds, however, have balked, as they’re wary of appearing like they’re funding sports stadiums (something they’ve pledged not to do), despite MLSE trying their best to provide political cover for them. So, instead of waiting for ol’ Panther Herpes’s approval, MLSE has rather suddenly redone their plans and scaled them back to exclude the CFL — something it sounds like they’re just fine with anyway.
“Within much of the MLSE hierarchy, buying the CFL team was seen as a favour being done in return for the opportunity to service the fans of Toronto FC. Without federal co-operation, no one feels the need to do any more favours,” Kelly explains. “It goes deeper than that. There is the strong sense within MLSE that Ottawa has let them off the hook. Supporters of the soccer club were deeply opposed to lengthening the field to accommodate the CFL. MLSE now gets to serve its base without taking the blame for a failed plan.”
As with all of this stuff, though, the spectre of a potential NFL franchise for this city looms large in the shadows, especially with the Buffalo Bills soon to hit the auction block in the wake of Ralph Wilson’s passing, folks like Larry Tanenbaum potentially lining up to get a piece, and the fact that, as Kelly explains, “the NFL does not want to be seen as undermining Canadian football. The league has made it clear that, if they were to allow a move to Toronto, they would prefer the prospective new owner also be in control of the Argonauts. As they see it, one owner for both teams guarantees the CFL’s long-term survival in Canada’s largest market.”
And, of course, if there is to be Rogers involvement — as their miserably failed Bills in Toronto suggests there might be (though the NFL’s 30 percent rule, ensuring that a single person owns a 30% controlling interest in the club, complicates that) — one thinks that there is a distinct possibility that there could be football, be it CFL or NFL, in the stadium for a long while. Or at least until a football specific venue is built to house whatever moribund franchise gets foisted on a city that has long shown it doesn’t particularly want it (at least, in the NFL’s case, not without the “full experience”– i.e. shitfaced tailgating.)
However! The BMO idea — far preferable, even if it doesn’t necessarily prevent Rogers’ involvement with the NFL from throwing a wrench into the Jays’ plans — isn’t actually necessarily dead.
“BMO Field Renovation 2.0 is reversible. The north section of the structure will remain open, using only temporary stands, meaning that the arena can be adapted for the CFL at some future point,” we’re told. “That will now require the promised $10-million in federal money (easy to give) and a very public capitulation from Ottawa (somewhat more difficult).”
Or… I dunno… a different government at some point next year, perhaps?
Or even if not, the bottom line is, things can still change. So, essentially, we’re back to exactly where we started in Kelly’s piece, wondering. Today’s news means, what, exactly? Well, that’s none of our damn business, ultimately. It’s for the back-slapping swine of big business and big government to figure out for us. We’ll just keep enjoying Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera running around on concrete until the bones in their knees and their lower backs turn to dust, I guess.
Glorious image still via James_in_TO.